The Shy Activist- Is donating clothes to charity helpful?

If you have followed Oh So Ethical for a while you’ll know we hold swapshops now and then. One thing that really bugs me is when people think they can just donate clothes to us rather than actually take part in the swapping. 

Today’s post is about donating clothes and the affect it has on other countries.

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Many people want to donate clothes to charity that they’ve only worn a couple times or never even worn once. 30% of clothing in the average wardrobe doesn’t get worn according to research by Wrap. £140 million worth of clothes go to landfills every year in the UK and of the clothes donated to charity shops only 10-30% is sold in the UK. The rest is sold on to developing countries and then sold in their markets. This is how charities make money from unsold second hand clothes.

So if 81% of clothing purchases in developing countries are second hand clothes what does it mean for their own textile and garment industry?

  • Research by Andrew Brookes (lecturer in development geography) has found that this has led to an 80% fall in textile and clothing employment.
  • Second hand clothes are cheaper to buy than new clothes but even then they are still unaffordable
  • Stall holders do not have a choice in their stock so it is a risky business 
  • Foreign clothes do not match the traditional cultural needs
  • It makes developing countries dependant on the west, preventing them from progressing

So how did this happen?

Although developing countries planned to produce their own goods after colonialism, they have a huge debt to repay to the West, and therefore have had to relax the barriers of trade which had protected factories. Once they were open to imports their second hand industry boomed and their own industries failed and jobs were lost.

“One of the sad ironies of today’s globalised economy is that many cotton farmers and ex-factory workers in countries such as Zambia are now too poor to afford any clothes other than imported second-hand ones from the west, whereas 30 or 40 years ago they could buy locally produced new clothes.”

In 2016 countries in East Africa announced a plan to ban imports of second-hand clothes by 2019. The affect of this will be negative for those who rely on this industry for their income but it will give a chance of their own textile industry and economy to improve. It will give them a chance to develop and reduce their dependancy on the West.

So next time you want to get rid of your clothes consider the consequences.

And next time you want to buy something consider the consequences.

Swapshops are a great way to extend the life of clothes in a conscious way. We should take responsibility of our waste rather than dump it at someone else’s doorstep.

Fair Favourites

This week Fair Favourites are Maison Bengal. I first spotted these bags at Ganesha in Southbank and then the V&A.

“Maison Bengal was set-up in 2004 in order to help fight poverty in Bangladesh, working particularly with mothers and young women.
We work very closely with three fair trade organisations in country, each one best placed to identify the most marginalised communities in their area and provide training in handicraft production. Maison Bengal works with each group separately to utilise their locally grown natural materials and develop their renowned traditional skills. “

Small round jute macrame bag

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Hand woven jute bag

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Jute macrame shopping bag

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I found my information here:

http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/VoC%20FINAL%20online%202012%2007%2011.pdf#page=2

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30227025

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/2015/feb/13/second-hand-clothes-charity-donations-africa

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/06/second-hand-clothing-donations-kenya

http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/EA-states-join-hands-to-ban-importation-of-used-clothes–cars/-/2558/2634876/-/nemwm8z/-/index.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-35706427

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/these-african-countries-dont-want-your-used-clothing-anymore_us_57cf19bce4b06a74c9f10dd6

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