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Second-hand clothing imports are safe, no restrictions needed

Several countries worldwide have stopped importing second-hand clothing due to the fear that they may be contaminated with the coronavirus. The Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) and EuRIC argue that this is ‘unlikely’ to be the case.

‘While we entirely understand that governments want to protect their workers such as dockworkers, haulage company workers handling containers or workers who deal with the further processing of used textiles, it is unlikely that those workers can get infected by handling these materials and goods in trade due to the low environmental stability of COVID-19 and the average journey time of sea freight from Europe to end markets in Africa or Asia,’ the organisations write.

The average transport period is typically much longer than the virus can survive outside the body, even on hard surfaces. The amount of time the virus can stay on surfaces differs per material, ranging from 3 hours for tissue and paper, 24 hours for cardboard; 2 days for wood and cloth; 2-3 days for stainless steel; 3 days for plastic; 4 days for paper money and glass; and 7 days for surgical masks.

‘Based on the evidence that is currently available it is very unlikely that exported used clothing could transmit COVID-19,’ it is argued. ‘Nevertheless, as an added precaution we recommend that everybody who purchases used clothing washes the garment with soap and water before wearing it for the first time,’ both organisations state. ‘Safety measures for workers such as social distancing applicable in the country of destination shall also be observed to limit the risk of contamination between workers.’

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