Mountains of clothes washed up on Ghana beach show cost of fast fashion

Gerard Ortiz

Huge piles of discarded outfits line a seaside in Accra, funds of Ghana.

The rags started life countless numbers of miles from the Gulf of Guinea and their coming to relaxation on this West African coast demonstrates the shortcomings of a huge world wide trade buoyed by quickly manner.

Ghana is the third-biggest importer of 2nd-hand garments in the globe and its market for made use of garments is so powerful that traders of new traces wrestle to compete.

2nd-hand clothing enter the place from distributors abroad – Britain and the US are the biggest players – and are bought in bulk to area dealers just before hitting the market stalls.

It is no circular financial system: Much more than just one hundred million products of employed clothes fall from circulation and go to squander every yr in Ghana’s money on your own.

Muntaka Chasant, a photographer primarily based in Accra, is aware of where by a superior deal of this waste ends up.

He tells The Unbiased of his trip this week to the beach at Jamestown, an aged district of the cash that is house to a fishing community.

Possessing been there prior to Mr Chasant realized what to count on but was nonetheless dissatisfied when he saw dense mounds of clothing lining the seafront.

Nii, a area fishermen, wades by the rags

(Muntaka Chasant/Shutterstock)

The wall of clumped material bothers the locals, as it blocks the path of their boats into the ocean. But it is confident to be more bothersome to marine life, presented activists who observe the capital’s seashores say the waste visible from the shore is like the tip of an iceberg.

Mr Chasant spoke to Nii, a 20-year-aged fisherman who was wading knee-deep in floating rags. He instructed the photographer: “This helps make me upset. None of us dwelling alongside these shores have everything at all to do with these. We are previously beneath worry from the absence of fish in the ocean, and now this!”

As he walked alongside the beach with some of the locals, Mr Chasant puzzled aloud exactly where all the apparel could come from.

“They are from Kantamanto!” an exasperated fisherman blurted out.

Kantamanto Market is an tremendous trading corridor for next hand clothes situated in central Accra. Some 30,000 persons perform sorting, washing, mending and offering the roughly 25 million clothes that pass by way of its stalls just about every month.

A common collective phrase for the market’s wares is Obruni Wawu – a phrase of the Twi language spoken by hundreds of thousands in West Africa indicating: dead white man’s apparel.

Most squander is considered to continue to be at sea

(Muntaka Chasant/Shutterstock)

Around 40 per cent of the dresses been given by traders hardly ever obtain a next-purchaser and finish up in landfill or the ocean, washing downstream via Accra’s open up gutter method just after being discarded.

Liz Ricketts, co-founder of Or Foundation, a sustainable trend advocacy team, keeps monitor of what finishes up on the shore. Or has a group of nine locals who wander along sample stretches of Accra’s coastline each and every week to depend how lots of new bundles of clothing have washed up. They different the bundles and test each and every merchandise for a label.

Speedy fashion huge H&M is one particular of the most prevalent manufacturers observed, as is Gildan – a t-shirt manufacturer recognized for customized designs well known with hen and stag dos. But other prevalent manufacturers include things like Nike, Marks & Spencer and Upcoming, models not ordinarily involved with disposability.

Or operates with traders in Kantamanto to advertise methods of recycling squander dresses, this sort of as shredding the product to promote as insulation.

But even the most effective follow by traders are not able to bear the bodyweight of the utilized textiles industry and Ms Ricketts claims if there is any hope for ridding Accra’s shorelines of the trade’s waste, the exporter nations around the world want to discourage brand names from producing in surplus.


“The next hand apparel trade is a business, it’s not recycling, it is not squander administration and its not charity. It is a offer chain and that’s how people need to have to assume of it,” she tells The Unbiased.

“What’s required is extended producer accountability.” A tax that places the burden on clothes producers to pay for their individual squander, with the dollars elevated sent to importer countries to help with waste administration.

It is a complicated corner to fight given that models do not want to admit they are manufacturing squander and governments are eager to hold on to their tax revenues.

France previously has these types of a coverage but levies a miniscule volume per garment on organizations and retains the funds elevated. The United kingdom is planning a equivalent policy.

“It’s not globally accountable,” Ms Ricketts suggests, incorporating that it however will allow apparel to be exported without any treatment for the damage that will be prompted by the masses that conclude up in the setting.

“The global north uses the world-wide south as a squander management support,” she suggests, “that’s not ideal.”

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