The rapid expansion of fast fashion is fueling a substantial increase in discarded clothing, overwhelming second-hand stores, and the international networks that recycle these goods. The situation has sparked local ingenuity, such as in Ghana where the waste is upcycled into new products, as documented by GQ’s Oliver Franklin-Wallis in his new book “Wasteland”.
- Every year, 62 million tons of clothing are manufactured globally, a significant percentage of which ends up in landfills, particularly in developing nations like Ghana.
- Only 10-30% of second-hand donations to charity shops are resold in the stores, the rest are sorted, graded, and resold to commercial partners, often for export to the Global South. This has, unfortunately, turned into a trash disposal system with the rise of fast fashion.
- Kantamanto, in Ghana, is a significant hub for these clothes where 15 million garments move through every week. These clothes originate mainly from donations to charities in Europe and North America and are then spread throughout Ghana and neighboring countries.
- The flood of cheap second-hand clothing from the West has harmed local textile manufacturing sectors in Africa. Between 1975 and 2000, the number of people working in the textile trade in Ghana fell by 75 percent.
- A Ghanaian fashion brand, The Revival, specializes in upcycling second-hand clothing. They are developing solutions such as creating protective gear from discarded denim imports for local farmers. Their goal is to extend the lifespan of items that would otherwise be discarded, though they currently can only handle a small fraction of the waste arriving in Ghana.