VIDEO. In Ghana, the dustbin of the West, textile waste forms a mountain and a flood of clothes pollutes the shores

“Trash can of the West”: This is what the district of Old Fadama in Accra, the capital of Ghana, is called. In this slum, one of the most polluted in the world, around 100,000 people live in extreme poverty at the foot of a mountain of rubbish. Plastic, leftovers, but above all old clothes are stacked twenty meters high. These come from China, the United States, Europe… from the global second-hand business.

In fact, more than half of the used clothing we containerize for recycling is actually resold abroad, mostly in Africa. And Ghana is one of the leading importers of second-hand clothes in Africa… The country of 32 million people receives 800 million second-hand items every year… and 160 tons of textile waste every day.

“Obroni wawu” or “the clothes of dead white men”

At Accra’s Kantamanto market, the local second-hand temple, vendors snub whites who “bring only rubbish“. For these garments, called “obroni wawu“(“the clothes of dead white men”) in memory of an ancient belief seem to be more and more numerous and their quality less and less good. Unsold items are exploding and Ghana does not know what to do with them.

During the rainy season, rubbish is dumped from landfills or washed into the sea through sewers, tangled rubbish – clothes, fishing nets, plastic… – being blown up by the sea. A member of The Or Foundation took stunning pictures last spring.

The “Fast Fashion” is responsible

This NGO, which “works in the fields of environmental justice, education and fashion development” and “promotes circular fashion,” was founded by American Liz Ricketts. In her opinion, the fashion industry is responsible for this pollution, especially “fast fashion”, which is producing more and more. “There’s just too much clothing floating around in the world she warns. It goes beyond Ghana: the Kantamanto market and the beach here just expose a problem that actually exists around the world.”

Excerpt from Textile: the Mound of Shame, as reported in Special Envoy October 6, 2022.

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