TRA urges textiles policy makers to listen to African traders

The Textile Recycling Association (TRA) has backed recommendations made by the Ghanaian used clothing industry.

Following the publication by the Ghana Used Clothing Dealers Association (GUCDA) – “An Evaluation of the Socio-Economic and Environmental Impact of the Second-Hand Clothes Trade in Ghana”, the TRA has backed its call for policy makers in the global north to “prioritise” listening to African traders and to base their decisions and regulations on “well-sourced academic data and evidence”.

The TRA has said the research provides a “balance and empirically grounded view” of the SHC’s trade’s “actual impacts”, as opposed to relying on predominantly anecdotal evidence or isolated case studies.

The report also concluded that the amount of textile waste contained within imports of used clothing into the country is up to 5%, with 56% of retailers reporting 1% or less waste in their clothing bales.

This comes off the back of a report recently commissioned by the Dutch Government that 4% of the textiles in bales arriving in Ghana are “unsellable” and therefore waste, and reports from the Mitumba Association in Kenya that 2% of what is imported is waste.

“Of course we want to keep contamination of bales down to an absolute minimum. However, there is growing evidence from properly researched sources that the amount of textile waste being imported in to African countries is dramatically less than the estimates of 40% or more that we see widely reported in the media, and which the Ghanaian traders are describing as being based on ‘deeply flawed research’.

“Regretfully these figures are now finding its way into policy making papers and most notably in the recent proposal put forward by France (and backed by Sweden and Denmark) which resulted in headlines indicating that the EU might ban used clothing imports” said Alan Wheeler,  chief executive of the TRA.

The report goes on to highlight that the market in Accra is a “highly environmentally sustainable textiles ecosystem”, which extracts as much value out of materials it deals with as possible.  The TRA said some commentators are “confusing” what it feels is a wider problem of general waste management.

If the second-hand clothing trade were to be stopped overnight, the TRA emphasised that Ghanaians would still need to buy clothing, which would “most likely be new, more expensive, but poorer quality fast fashion from China”, which it said would still end up in the landfill sites and not fix the waste management issues.

The TRA said that it would be “far more sensible” to implement waste management and recycling infrastructures in Ghana and elsewhere, so that these countries can “fully participate” in the movement towards a sustainable circular economy.

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