Global – Following recent negative coverage of the second-hand clothing industry in both Newsweek and the Huffington Post, America’s Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) and the UK’s Textile Recycling Association (TRA) have leapt to the sector’s defence with a joint statement that underlines ‘the tremendous social, economic and environmental value of reusing and recycling unwanted clothing’.
Dismissing the media reports as ‘inaccurate and unbalanced’, the statement points out that the recycled textiles industry reduces the need for landfill space, lessens the pressure on virgin resources, slashes pollution as well as energy and water consumption, and cuts down on the need for dyes and fixing agents.
The statement also counters the implication in the media stories that imports of second-hand clothing into East Africa are hurting the local textile manufacturing industry.
‘In reality,’ says SMART and TRA, ‘there are numerous countries around the world, including Pakistan, Guatemala and Honduras, which enjoy both robust manufacturing and second-hand industries.’
Even if East Africa were to ramp up local production, it is ‘unlikely’ that the clothing would be affordable for people residing in the region, they say.
‘Most, if not all, textiles manufactured in Africa are exported for sale in developed countries, including the US and UK, as opposed to being sold where they were created,’ the two organisations maintain.
‘With many in the East African Community living on the equivalent of US$ 1-2 or less per day, second-hand clothing provides many with their only affordable access to quality apparel.’
According to a report from Rwanda, they add by way of example, 80% or more of the country’s population ‘could not possibly pay to clothe themselves if they had to depend on new apparel alone’.
The second-hand clothing that US and UK exporters ship to the region ‘is prepared and selected specifically to meet the price and quality demands of East African populations’, the statement insists.
‘They are not unwanted goods dumped in the African market.’ While most people in America and the UK do not view textiles as a household recyclable in the same way as paper, plastics, aluminium and glass, ‘more than 95% of all textiles can be recycled or reused in some way’, SMART and TRA also point out.
Some of the news coverage ‘gives the casual reader the impression that dumping good-quality clothing in the rubbish bin after it has been donated is commonplace, when in reality only a tiny percentage ends up going for disposal’.