Mitumba Waste Report

Trashion: The stealth export of waste plastic clothes to Kenya

The amount of second-hand clothing flowing to Kenya from global sources has grown significantly in recent years, a torrent that amounts to 17 items of clothing every year for each Kenyan, up to 8 of which are waste from the start. The system of used-clothing trade is currently at breaking point, with over 900 million items sent to Kenya from around the globe in 2021. Out of these, nearly 150 million items came from the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK). Of the 112 million items of used clothing shipped directly from the EU to Kenya each year, up to one in three contain plastic and are of such a low quality that they are immediately dumped in the environment or burned. This toxic influx is creating devastating consequences for the environment and communities. Currently, over two-thirds (69%) of textiles are made from plastic, and this is expected to grow to 73% by 2030.

The implementation of the EU textile strategy is an important leverage to put the textile industry on a more circular trajectory and also to hold brands and retailers accountable for their textile waste. The upcoming revision of the Waste Framework Directive should introduce a well-designed Extended Producer Responsibility with mandatory eco-design requirements, which will hold fashion companies accountable for the end-of-life of the products they put on the market. In addition, governments must regulate the proliferation of cheap plastic fibres, which is a key driver of the fast fashion industry, through a virgin plastic tax. This will ensure that those who profit from cheap fast fashion also bear the cost of managing its waste.

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