Kenyan Senator calls uncontrolled exports of Second Hand Clothing to Kenya ‘Dumping’

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Nominated Senator Hamida Kibwana has described the exportation of sub standard textiles, plastics and synthetics into Kenya from developed countries as “dumping”.

This comes six months after Clean Up Kenya collaborated with Changing Markets Foundation and Wildlight to release a damning report which showed that up to 40% of Second Hand Clothing exported into Kenya from the European Union and the United Kingdom are simply rubbish, either being too soiled or torn to be re-worn or being culturally or climate inappropriate.

The Senator said this during a request for a statement in the Kenyan Senate on 3rd October 2023. This request is directed to the Senate Standing Committee on Lands, Environment and Natural Resources.

In her plea, Senator Hamida is urging the Committee to provide details on the measures taken by relevant state agencies to prevent Kenya from becoming a dumping ground for substandard imported textiles.

Additionally, the Senator wants a comprehensive report tabled in the Senate from the Ministries of Investments, Trade and Industry, Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, and Environment, Climate Change and Forestry on this issue.

She contends that the Senate Committee led by Sen. John Methu should investigate the feasibility of implementing a `take back` or `circular economy` programme, involving returning or repurposing unsellable and non-biodegradable items, in collaboration with exporting countries.

Since the release of our report, Mitumba Consortium Association of Kenya (MCAK), a lobby group for Kenya’s SHC importers, has also released a rebuttal report claiming Second Hand Clothing imported into the country has a negligible impact on the environment despite our report and documentary showing mountains of Second Hand Clothing waste at sections of Nairobi river that passes through the SHC hub of Gikomba market as well as at Dandora dumpsite.

Following the release of our report, we wrote to the United Nations Environment Programme to request a statement. The UN agency wrote back and stated that they do not have a policy brief on synthetic textiles and have not done any specific research on the subject.

In the last five years, Kenya has imported around 1 million tonnes of second hand clothing.

Senator Hamida Kibwana request for statement. Start at 2:01 and ends at 2:03:30

Full statement from Senator Hamida Kibwana:

“I arise pursuant to standing order 531 to seek a statement from the Standing Committee on Land, Environment and Natural Resources regarding dumping of textile, plastic and synthetic waste in Kenya. In the statement, the committee should 1) detail the steps the relevant state agencies have taken to ensure that Kenya does not become a dumping ground for substandard textiles imported into the country. 2) present a comprehensive report in collaboration with the Ministries of Investments, Trade and Industry, Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, and Environment, Climate Change and Forestry, outlining the handling of textile and plastic waste originating from international products within Kenya. 3) Investigate the feasibility of implementing a take-back or circular economy program involving returning and repurposing unsalable and non-degradable items in collaboration with exporting countries.

Senator Hamida Kibwana

Picture Courtesy: Kenyan Parliament Website

About the Author

Betterman Simidi Musasia

Founder & Patron, Former CEO, Clean Up Kenya

Betterman is a sustainable public sanitation advocate and a pollution control evangelist. In 2015, after becoming extremely tired of seeing all the trash in Kenyan neighborhoods and hearing the authorities fake promises to clear the mess, he sold his trucking business to establish Clean Up Kenya. Today, the organization is a leading national sustainable public sanitation advocacy brand. In September 2020, he stepped down as Clean Up Kenya Chief Executive Officer and currently serves as Founder and Patron.

ABOUT CLEAN UP KENYA

Clean Up Kenya was established in 2015 to advocate for and promote sustainable public sanitation in Kenya. Since then we have become the de-facto national public sanitation advocacy brand. We are also experts in community mobilizing for cleanups. We have done numerous cleanups over the years, some of which have been attended by over 1000 volunteers on singular sites. These cleanups are meant to increase visibility on the problem of waste and it is therefore common to see our volunteers in bibs with one message, ‘Clean Up Kenya’. At the core of our work is honest and actual engagement in communities – not PR events. We also run advocacy campaigns holding duty bodies, consumer brands, green-washing NGOs, and other stakeholders to account for unsustainable public sanitation in Kenya and the global South. We receive no funding for our work but collaborate with others on projects.