On the 16th of February 2023, in Nakuru City, Kenya, we released Trashion, the stealth export of waste plastic clothes to Kenya, a report and a documentary.
The report and documentary is a result of a yearlong probe by Clean Up Kenya, Wildlight and Changing Markets Foundation and exposes the hidden export of plastic waste to Kenya from the European Union and the United Kingdom.
This secret Transboundary trade of waste plastic clothing which is fuelled by the growing production of cheap, synthetic clothing should be illegal under the Basel Convention. Instead, recycling companies in the EU and the UK are using legal loopholes to export into Kenya millions of plastic clothing every year that are either too dirty or damaged to be reused or are culturally and climate inappropriate, creating serious environmental and health problems for vulnerable communities and overburdening the Kenya taxpayer with waste management costs for these rubbish clothing.
Key findings from the report include:
- Of the 148 million items of used clothing shipped directly from the European Union and United Kingdom to Kenya in 2021, up to one in three contain plastic (such as nylon and polyester) and are of such a low quality that they are immediately dumped or used as industrial rags in Kenyan factories or are openly incinerated;
- According to 2021 customs data, Baltic Textile Trading, the owners of Think Twice second-hand clothing shops, and Humana controlled 32% of all second-hand clothing imported into Kenya from the EU and the UK. They brought into Kenya around 160 forty-foot containers (on average 1 truck every two days), all in second grade. These imports came mostly from Germany.
- Other European companies that exported the used clothing to Kenya include Poland’s Vive Textile Recycling (7.94%), Wtorpol (3.32%), Firm Handlowa Tesso (3.31%) and UK companies Nathans Wastesavers Limited (4.62%), JMP (3.86%) and Cookstown Textile Recyclers (3.78%).
- Nathans Wastesavers Limited, JMP Wilcox, and Cookstown Textile Recyclers are important to highlight because they are associated with fashion industry initiatives such as Fashion for Good’s Sorting for Circularity project and Textiles 2030. Yet the levels of waste they export make their associated circularity and sustainability claims disingenuous. For example, Fashion for Good’s 2021 ‘Sorting for Circularity Campaign’ was an 18-month project which claimed to be “driving the industry towards greater circularity”. This promise rings hollow in light of our investigation showing that a significant amount of what they bring into Kenya is simply rubbish.
- The charities that collect clothing from EU and UK citizens including British Heart Foundation, Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, Salvation Army, Barnardos, and Sue Ryder, among others are also linked to the recycling companies shipping clothing waste to Kenya.
- Our research found that Germany (41.27%) is the leading exporter of second-hand clothing from Europe to Kenya, followed by Poland (24.68%), the UK (23.05%), Hungary (3.28%), Italy (2.53%), Belgium (1.82%), Lithuania (1.42%), Estonia (0.67%), France (0.53%) and Ireland (0.42%) and account for 95% of all second-hand clothing exports from the EU to Kenya. The total value of these exports was USD $26,018,014 (€24,838,617).
This report comes at a crucial time when the international community is involved in the development of a Global Treaty for Plastics, and with the EU engaged in upcoming legislation such as Extended Producer Responsibility and eco-design criteria. Locally, we have seen progress in the development of the legal framework for the management of waste with the enactment of the Sustainable Waste Management Act of 2021. Kenya is also set to have Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations implemented in the coming months which will also cover textiles.
Following the release of this report, we have secured an amazing 240 pieces of coverage across more than 40 countries from Germany, France and the UK, to Pakistan, Japan and Bangladesh with an estimated readership of 890,000,000 people, plus a TV and radio interview with Belgium’s VRT and Kenya’s TV 47. Some highlights include:
- EU dumps 37 million items of plastic clothing in Kenya a year. Which country is the worst offender? (Euronews)
- The REAL price of your throwaway fast fashion: Shocking images reveal the MOUNTAINS of cheap clothes dumped in Kenya – as experts call for brands to be forced to PAY for their waste (Daily Mail)
- La Unión Europea exporta a Kenia 56 millones de prendas que acaban envertederos(El Pais)
- Altkleiderexporte sorgen für Plastikmüllberge in Kenia (Der Spiegel)
- Donated clothing worsening Kenya’s plastic pollution: report (France 24)
- Une fondation dénonce le « déluge de vêtements usagés » contenant du plastique envoyés au Kenya (Le Monde)
- We also made headlines news in De Morgen (Flemish Belgium) and Le Temps (Switzerland’s biggest newspaper)
- Donated clothing worsening Kenya’s plastic pollution: report The East African
- Donated clothing worsening Kenya’s plastic pollution: report NTV Kenya
Here’s a live list of all media coverages as they come in.
Because of the significance of this report, we are now asking UN Environment, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the countries in their territory to issue a public statement on whether the European Union and the United Kingdom have breached the provisions of the Basel Convention and what legal remedies Kenya can undertake on behalf of vulnerable communities who have been affected by this illegal trade.
We are planning to release supplementary articles in the coming 72 hours with statements from the countries, multilateral agencies and organisations that have been adversely mentioned in the report.
For more information:
Betterman Simidi Musasia, Clean Up Kenya Founder and Patron, Email: email@example.com
ABOUT CLEAN UP KENYA