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Traders bemoan ‘sensationalist’ reporting

Call to arms for sector to address misinformation about exports of used clothing for recycling and reuse.

Normally, my report contains some insights into the current state of the markets. However I feel I must use this platform this time for a call for arms to the international used clothing and textile sector to deal with a growing problem that, if not collectively confronted, will seriously hinder our trade as we move towards a circular economy. The issue is false information being spread on the internet and in the media about what our industry does and what happens to used clothing when it is sent to countries in Africa and elsewhere.

Recently yet another article, this time in the Sunday Times in the UK, regurgitated the same totally inaccurate information about what happens to clothing sent to the Kantamanto market in Accra, Ghana. Regretfully the article is littered with inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Even the sub-heading of the article contained a spectacular misrepresentation that beggars belief, with the paper saying that the very high collection rates achieved in the UK for reuse and recycling are no more than clothing dumped in black bins. At least that is how it reads.

Unfortunately, there is an increasing amount of commentary written about this issue in the media and on the internet which has been produced by individuals who have insufficient knowledge of the used clothing industry and are not able to cover the important details. If they did, it would give a significantly different slant on such articles. Furthermore, the use of stock photos which do nothing to tell the truth do not help. Just because an article includes a picture of a landfill site accompanied by a statement that it is full of textiles, does not mean that it is true.

What is even more worrying is that I am hearing these falsehoods being repeated in an increasing number of sustainable or circular fashion economy forums. It seems as though some from the fashion industry are either trying to use it as an attempt to detract attention from the real environmental and social problems created by that sector or to try and somehow abdicate their responsibility to make the fashion industry more circular.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that this is not something that individual businesses or indeed national associations representing our sector can defend on their own. That is why I would like to see trade bodies representing our sector globally come together to try to agree on collaborative action that can inform these important issues accurately in an unbiased manner. This should help to address the worrying increase in sensationalist reporting and hopefully increase people’s scepticism of such reporting when it arises.

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