Dead White Man's Clothes

Dead White Man's Clothes

2021, Environment  -   8 Comments
Ratings: 8.75/10 from 8 users.

The fast fashion industry of the West has made a profound impact on the people and the environment of Ghana, especially those in the capital city of Accra. For the last two decades, Ghana has had a thriving industry trading in "Obroni Wawu" or Dead white man's clothes. Most end up at the Kantamanto market, where over 15 million pieces of used clothing arrive every week.

These clothes are all second-hand, from western nations like the USA, UK and Australia. They started life in a retail store, was purchased, worn a few times, probably kept in storage and then donated to a charity. If the charity finds them unworthy of donation, they are sold to exporters. Packed into tight bales with 200 assorted pieces of clothes inside, they arrive at Accra and are delivered to their new owners.

These new owners are Ghanian importers who resell them throughout the country and most of Africa. Though this has created thousands of new jobs and opportunities, it has also brought many alarming issues, including a looming major environmental disaster.

When importers buy the bales of clothes, there is no way to check the quality of the garments. In recent years, the condition of the clothes arriving has steadily become worse. Many have holes, rips, tears, and sweat stains and are considered trash with no value. After the importers sort their shipments, they are purchased by other wholesalers and small retailers who sell to the far-flung villages.

The amount of clothes thrown away is shocking. Six million garments or 160 tons of textile waste have to be disposed of weekly. They are quickly running out of landfill space. The result is that many of the clothes clog the city's drains, cause flooding and get swept out into the ocean and beaches. It's not uncommon to find rows upon rows of clothes tangled and buried in the sand, up to 30 feet long, rolling by the seashore. Many garments are also incinerated, and it's common to see black smoke rising in the Accra sky.

Importers lament the state of the clothes they receive. It's insulting to them, and it feels like they are seen as a giant trash can. In the West, no one thinks about where old clothes go and how to dispose of them. The truth is they end up in some of the most disenfranchised areas in the world, where their citizens will have to live with all the waste and get blamed for being the biggest polluters.

So who should get the blame, and what can be done? Social activists blame big fashion houses and fast-fashion chains that produce hundreds of designs meant to be worn only a few times. The fashion industry also overproduces up to 40% of what is needed. Perhaps it's time for all of us to think about the quality of what we donate, but more importantly, to be mindful of how we consume fashion.

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8 Comments / User Reviews


    too many humans.... tell me we dont act in a feeding freenze..... 3/4 miinutes

  2. virginia

    I wish this excellent documentary gave us more concrete steps about how to behave and names of who we should write to in order to stop this terrible practice. We can all buy a lot less to begin with, and donate only like-new clothing. Stop pushing our trash on the rest of the world.

  3. Kerry

    This is disgusting. Good thing this vid isn't named something else, there would be a huge uproar, if you know what I mean! If the blacks in Africa didn't breed like and live like animals, they wouldn't be in the position they are in. I will admit that a lot of their problems also come from criminals in their and other country's governments. I know, I know, that was racist, but so is this video and nobody else will call it out, because people are afraid to be called a racist, not me! People need to wake the hell up and stop being afraid to expose the truths!

    1. LADY J

      we all can prob be accused of racism at some point in our lives but to me you sound IGNORANT!

    2. LADY J

      Wow,you really are ignorant! "EVERYTHING IS AN INSULT TO THE BLACK RACE ALL OVER THE WORLD..." I haven't watched the film yet but regardless Kerry you seriously need to think before you make false statements about people you don't even know!

  4. Rachel A Marchant

    I can testify to this. I worked as a thrift store sorter here in Canada. What we can't sell either gets turned into industrial cleaning rags or shipped to other countries. The clothing we could not sell is because it is unwearable. Yes it is an insult to the people of Africa.

    1. Kerry

      Everything is an insult to the black race all over the world and they blame everyone else for their problems. God knows the truth and he will set things straight, count on it!

    2. Kerry

      Oh my gosh! So it's the white man's fault as usual because we don't make sure that we send them our very best???? God have mercy on you people for blaming everyone but yourselves!