By Andri Oppliger
Today‘s fashion addiction is followed by devastating consequences even long after the garments have been worn. The clothes we donate to charity often end up in landfills causing an environmental catastrophe which is being shouldered by countries on the other side of the world.
Every week millions of garments from the UK, Europe, North America and Australia flood Ghana‘s clothing market with an estimated 40% of them being of such poor quality that they are deemed worthless and get discarded. The relentless consumption of low-quality clothing, driven by the fast fashion industry, exacerbates the problem even further. Developing countries like Ghana become dumping grounds for textile waste leading to environmental hazards, methane gas buildup, fires that pose great risks to the local population. This overlooked crisis calls for greater awareness and responsible actions to address the environmental impact of fashion waste.
LET’S BUY MORE CLOTHES!
Western overconsumption has led to a grave waste crisis in Ghana. Astonishing 30 millions of garments arrive every two weeks; a number that overpowers the local population of 30 millions by far. Only a fraction of the estimated 160 tons of daily textile waste ends up in landfills, leaving the rest to be washed into open sewers during storms and spreading the problem. As synthetic textiles take centuries to decompose the environmental consequences are dire and leave behind an enduring mountain of waste. As responsible consumers it is crucial for us to recognize our role in this problem and make conscious choices to address it. We encourage the already booming fashion industry by buying more. The shift in how people consume clothing – not as a durable necessity but reflection of everchanging trends and personal style – created an immensely higher demand that urges the whole industry to lower its prizes. Following the credo: lower the quality and go higher in quantity. We must ask ourselves what happens to them when we get rid of them.
Before donating our garments, we should first assess the quality of what we are giving away. Will someone else be able to wear and use these clothes? Furthermore, we need to thoroughly research the organizations we donate to and understand how they handle the continuing life of our garments and their resources. Unfortunately, the system is often lacking transparency. Texaid for instance claims to downcycle its garments into insulation material when in fact they continue to export donated clothing to developing countries. It is advisable to check with secondhand stores about the handling of clothing that cannot be sold in their own stores. Being informed makes for better choices and support organizations that align with one’s values and best prioritize sustainable practices.
SO WHAT DO WE DO WITH OUR CLOTHES THAT WE WANT TO GET RID OF?
Mikhail Rojkov, a specialist on this subject, answers to this question with the following: “What I often say now is that it is more responsible (not ecological, but responsible) to put one‘s clothes in the simple trash, so that they „disappear“ (= by being incinerated / burned) rather than end up piled up on a beach in Ghana.” So, when there is nothing left to save, and no one would carry it we should at least try to keep our garbage to ourselves. Even if it gives you a good conscience, the thinking of “I help the poor with my old leggins” only worsens the already challenging circumstances.