Where fast fashion REALLY ends up

Where fast fashion REALLY ends up

The fast fashion graveyard where Britain’s second-hand clothes go to rot: Footage reveals mountain of waste in Ghana as BBC report warns ‘years of dumping Western cast-offs has created this environmental nightmare’

  • BBC Africa report highlights horrifying reality of Ghana’s ‘fast fashion mountain’
  • Country receives UK’s second-hand clothing and it is resold in the markets
  • Fast-fashion is of such bad quality it can have no resale value and goes to landfill
  • Images show a pile of rotting clothes piling up, and being washed into the sea 

Shocking BBC footage reveals one of Ghana’s mountainous ‘fast fashion graveyards’ made up of poor quality second-hand clothing from around the world.

Many of the garments were donated to charity shops or placed in clothing recycling banks with the very best of intentions and the belief that they would be sold to raise money for good causes. 

But, according to experts, the UK’s love affair with ‘fast fashion’ is creating a massive surplus of poor-quality garments which are sent abroad via second-hand dealers and, in some cases, end up polluting countries on the other side of the world.

In a new BBC Africa report, journalist Thomas Naadi visited one of Ghana’s overflowing landfills, where some 40 per cent of second-hand clothing ends up. ‘Years of dumping Western cast-offs and plastics have created this environmental nightmare,’ he says, surrounded by undulating hills of rotting clothing.

Shocking BBC footage reveals one of Ghana’s mountainous ‘fast fashion graveyards’ made up of poor quality second-hand clothing from around the world, pictured 

Ghana, a major recipient of the UK’s second-hand clothing, receives 15million pieces of used clothing each week.

For decades these clothes have been given a new life in the country’s flourshing second-hand clothes market, but the deluge of worn garments arriving has become overwhelming and poorly-made fast fashion makes up more and more of what is sent. 

‘The goods that are coming now are really affecting our business,’ explained one trader in Ghana’s Kantamanto market. Another added: ‘On Wednesday we did not get good clothing at all.’

Shoddily-made garments arrive damaged or fall apart, and cannot be resold. Some market traders have been forced to close up due to the lack of quality items.

Many of the garments were donated to charity shops or placed in clothing recycling banks with the very best of intentions and the belief that they would be sold to raise money for good causes. Pictured, tightly-packed bundles of clothing arrive at one market in Ghana

For decades these clothes have been given a new life in the country’s flourshing second-hand clothes market, but the deluge of worn garments arriving has become overwhelming and poorly-made fast fashion makes up more and more of what is sent. Pictured, the clothing

Shoddily-made garments arrive damaged or fall apart, and cannot be resold. Some market traders have been forced to close up due to the lack of quality items. Pictured, traders at Ghana’s Kantamanto market, which receives much of the second-hand clothing

It also means more and more is being sent the country’s landfills. And with Western consumers buy 60 per cent more clothing than they did 15 years ago, the situation is set to worsen.

The chain of pollution continues even once clothing reaches the landfill, with items washed down to the shore and into the sea. 

‘Some of these clothes are polyester and synthetic fabrics,’ explained Roberta Annan, a UN Goodwill Ambassador. ‘They go into the waterway and choke the fish and the marine life in there. 

Ghana, a major recipient of the UK’s second-hand clothing, receives 15million pieces of used clothing each week. Some 40 per cent ends up in landfills like the one seen above

The chain of pollution continues even once clothing reaches the landfill, with items washed down to the shore and into the sea. Pictured, clothing buried in the sand after being washed in

‘The fashion industry loses $500billion a year due to fashion waste. We need to really mobilise to get all these production and manufacturing companies internationally to commit to how this will be disposed of.’

According to WRAP, a British charity set up in 2000 to promote sustainable waste management, 70 per cent of all the UK’s used clothing is sent overseas, contributing to a worldwide second-hand trade in which billions of old items are bought and sold around the globe every year.

UN data indicates that the UK is the world’s second largest exporter of second-hand clothes. In 2018, £419 million worth were sold overseas, coming second only to the U.S. — which has a far bigger population — whose exports totalled £521 million. 

Cattle graze on one of Ghana’s shocking fast fashion landfills, created by overseas waste

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