Despite providing shoppers up to 99% off on the Black Friday Sale in 2019, the Boohoo-owned label went so far as to include a freebie with every sale on Black Friday in 2020. It’s only one instance of the persistent manufacturing and customers’ desire for new, low-cost fashions, the impact of which can be seen in locations like Kantamanto Market, Accra, Ghana, which itself is home to West Africa’s largest resale market and a receiver of a growing number of low-quality garments.
Consequently, an estimated 40% of all clothing bundles are discarded, eventually ending up in landfills or the ocean as per The OR Foundation, NGO, US. This has made it much more problematic for market vendors – who are still attempting to recuperate damages from the pandemic and the December 2020 market fire, which placed 200 businesses in peril – to generate enough profit to support their families.
The number of clothes purchased has increased almost fivefold over the previous three decades, given the emergence of fast fashion. Every week, 15 million used garments arrive in Accra from the United Kingdom, Europe, the US, and Australia, filling the city’s huge retail market. As quoted by DW, “The goods that are coming now are really impacting our business,” claimed one seller, emphasising that such cheap and poor goods cannot be resold in the marketplace.
This has led to more clothes being thrown than ever before. Fast fashion in Western countries supports an unnoticed “salvage market” in which clothing trash is sent to other countries where it fills marketplaces, jams beaches, and overwhelms landfills causing an ecological catastrophe fed by fast fashion, but at the other corner of the globe.
“Whatever they can’t sell in their thrift stores ends up in the ‘salvage’ market,” co-founder and director of the OR Foundation, Liz Ricketts, told CBS News.
Furthermore, abandoned clothes wash up on the country’s shores after being discharged into the sea. According to UN Goodwill Ambassador Roberta Annan, this is a calamity waiting to happen for marine life. “You won’t be able to get it out. You must dig. It’s been buried,” she told DW. Some of these items are polyester and synthetic materials, which end up in the canal and choke out the aquatic life and cloth market, Annan said further.
With a limited supply of quality used clothes and an increasing supply of throwaway apparel, Ghanaians are driven to do precisely what we’re told won’t happen when we donated our unwanted. They travel hundreds of kilometres just to be discarded, never seeing their supposed second life.