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Textile sector to dispel "myths" about African waste exports

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2021-08-11 07:01:36 – South Africa

The textile recycling sector has launched a campaign to debunk "myths" and "misinformation" in media reports warning against the export of old textiles to Africa.

Negative media portrayals about the textile recycling sector, according to the Textile Recycling Association, Bureau of International Recycling, European Recycling Industries Confederation, and Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), are inaccurate.

Alan Wheeler, director of the Textile Recycling Association (TRA), said there was growing fear in the sector that people with a misguided concern for sustainability were harming the second-hand clothes market in Africa and so discouraging the public from supporting it.

To combat negative propaganda, the TRA has teamed up with its counterparts in the EU, the US, and the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR).

These organizations said that there is a frequent misunderstanding that second-hand clothing sent to poor nations is largely discarded straight away. The truth is that apparel that isn't sold directly in the market is simply transferred down the supply chain and sold in smaller marketplaces around the region... No firm can afford to invest money on packaging, shipping, and distribution just to have the product wind up in a landfill."

Wheeler told MRW that used garments sold in Africa were often of greater quality than new and cheaper Chinese items. He said some activists saw mixed bundles of clothes being transported to Africa and thought that some of them were waste. In reality, it was common practice to grade garments by quality in mixed bales so that a store, for example, wouldn't buy a bale and discover they only had one sort of garment.

Martin Böschen, head of the BIR textile division, said that due to high shipping and import expenses, it does not make sense for importers to import second-hand textiles that are not fit for the local market. It would be cheaper to discard or recycle such textiles in the United States or Europe than to transport them to Africa. As a result, the idea that a substantial portion of imported textiles ends up in landfills is very dubious.

In April, the Kenya Institute of Economic Affairs issued research that showed the used clothes textile business to be critical to Kenya's economy, employing two million people directly and creating thousands of other employees in areas such as transportation. It is estimated that 91.5 percent of Kenyan families buy second-hand clothes.

In 2019, the country imported 185,000 tonnes of used clothes, which equates to about 8,000 containers. The industry groups stated that their effort will continue in order to correct the record and aggressively encourage the globe to consume old clothes and textiles.

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