Ghana: Ghanaian clothing traders advise the EU to “stop dumping your cast-offs on us”
By Ahmad Hadizat Omayoza, Mamos Nigeria
A group of secondhanded clothes dealers from Ghana have visited Brussels to campaign for expansive regulation to constrain the style business to help address the “natural calamity” of unloading immense measures of materials in the west African country.
The traders from Kantamanto in Accra, one of the largest markets for secondhand clothing in the world, met with Swedish Green Party MEP Alice Bah Kuhnke, representatives of environmental organizations, and representatives from the European Commission and the European Environment Bureau to argue that the proposed extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulation should guarantee that Ghana receives funds for managing the 100 tons of clothing that are discarded daily at the market.
Producers are obliged by EPR policies to contribute to the disposal of waste created by their items. At the moment, the only nation in Europe with an EPR covering the textile industry is France.
Because the fee paid by clothing producers is low—just €0.06 (5p) for each item—and the funds raised do not “follow exports” to countries like Ghana, which are suffering the consequences of over-production and consumption in wealthy nations, critics claim that the policy does little to help “end-of-line” nations like Ghana.
The Kantamanto traders want the draft EPR policy, which is expected to be submitted in June, to raise the fee to at least €0.50 for each item and guarantee that a fair amount of the money goes to the countries where the secondhand clothes end up, including at least 10% going to an environmental fund to clean up damage from the past.
Kantamanto, which began in the 1960s as a result of a colonial mindset that encouraged Ghanaians to wear western clothing, now occupies approximately 7 hectares (18 acres), handles approximately 15 million garments each week, and employs approximately 30,000 people.
The majority of the clothing purchased by retailers is either “deadstock” (clothes that have been stored in warehouses and storerooms for years but have never been worn), donated to charities, or placed in recycling bins. Every week, the market sells or upcycles approximately 6 million of the better-quality items.
However, approximately 40% of the textiles that arrive in Kantamanto are thrown away as waste. The development in “quick style” is pushing that figure up, and bringing a higher volume of lower-quality handed down garments. The deterioration in quality results in more waste and reduces the traders’ earnings, putting many of them in debt.
Samuel Oteng, a designer and community engagement manager with the Or Foundation, a US environmental organization based in Accra that collaborates with Kantamanto and funded the delegation’s trip to Europe, said, “Kantamanto makes visible the problem that exists in Europe.”
He stated, “But Kantamanto also has the solutions.” I have witnessed Kantamanto’s resilience, but there is no support or recognition.
The traders want new laws to recognize the workers at Kantamanto for recycling waste from the global north.
“By nearly any other standard, the feat of recirculating 6 million items of clothing weekly is remarkable. According to the Waste Landscape report, which was released by the Or Foundation in 2022, “what leaves Kantamanto Market as waste does so largely because there is simply too much clothing, not because people are not working hard to manage it.”
Solomon Noi, part of the assignment and head of waste administration for Accra metropolitan gathering, said it was unimaginable for the city to adapt to the volume of market squander. Ten legal garbage dumps in the city were closed when they reached capacity between 2010 and 2020.