Lining the shores of an Accra beach, in numerous colours and of various fabrics are clothes. Many already discoloured due to their lengthy exposure to the elements. This is one of the many adverse effects of the UK’s fast fashion industry on the environment particularly in countries like Ghana, with areas continuously overflowing with unwanted clothes from western nations.
These second-hand clothes, usually bought in bulk by traders are mainly of low quality, meaning they are less likely to find buyers for them. The clothes that aren’t purchased are discarded, creating landfills at sites close rivers and lagoons which in turn wash these garments into the sea, polluting these aquatic bodies.
“Too much clothing is being manufactured because of fast fashion, and a lot of it isn’t made for a second life. They can’t sell it and so it ends up being thrown away,” Liz Ricketts, the co-founder of the Ghanaian non-profit organisation, The Or Foundation says. With the UK being the second largest exporter of recycled clothes (around 70% of clothes is recycled), this contributes to the textile waste in countries like Ghana. The problem is only getting worse as fast fashion primarily targets a younger demographic in western countries who are attracted to buying a multitude of clothes at low costs.
It is not only Ghana’s textile and recycling industry being harmed by these giant piles of rotting rags, but the fishing industry also takes a hit, polluted waters bring with forth dead and poisoned aquatic life. Fast fashion continues to disrupt the environment and the livelihoods of those who must bear the brunt of its impact.
The Or Foundation are among the organisations in Ghana tackling this issue, with a focus being on a Justice-led Circular Economy and the campaign Too Much Not Enough, change may take time and it may not be perfect, but it is starting and that is a good start.