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Textiles outlook: Business is tough enough without petty barriers

Governments must avoid unreasonable policies as scrap traders cope with the global crisis.

On the export side of things, like others in the wider recycling sector, the textiles scrap sector is suffering from a global lack of availability of shipping containers. Many are caught in ports where a backlog has built up due to the coronavirus outbreak. This has pushed up the price of obtaining these containers and is having a severe impact on the economic viability of exports of used clothing and textiles.

Illogical bans

However, when trouble hits the textiles sector, industry players don’t like to do things by halves. The Kenyan authorities have decided to ban imports of all used clothing with immediate effect, citing a perceived risk of coronavirus being transmitted through clothing.

Yet leading experts have said that, based on the transmission routes determined so far and the relatively low environmental stability of corona viruses, it is unlikely that imported goods such as food or commodities and toys, tools, computers, clothing or shoes could be a source of infection of the COVID-19 virus.

In the majority of cases, it is thought that the virus survives for between only a few hours to a few days outside the body. Even where this may extend to a week or two, this is still much shorter than the time it takes for used clothing from Europe to reach the markets in Africa.

The ban imposed by Kenyan government is completely illogical because they are still allowing in new clothing and other new goods from coronavirus hotspots such as China, the Far East and southern Europe. It is utterly absurd to single out used clothing in this manner and, as highlighted by research published by Imperial College London, the resulting economic damage that this could lead to in Kenya and elsewhere could result in more premature deaths than that caused by the virus itself.

The full textiles market analysis will be published in the upcoming issue of Recycling International.

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