UN Environment Responds to Request for Statement following the release of Trashion

You are currently viewing UN Environment Responds to Request for Statement following the release of Trashion
Ruth Okinyo (Clean Up Kenya) reading a Press Statement asking the EU and UK to release Public Statements on the Illegal exportation of rubbish plastic clothing to Kenya from Europe. Photo by Clean Up Kenya

The UN Environment Africa Office has responded to Clean Up Kenya’s request for a statement following the release of Trashion, the stealth export of waste plastic clothes to Kenya, a report and a documentary. This report and documentary which was produced by Changing Markets Foundation, Wildlight and Clean Up Kenya show how the United Kingdom and the European Union are secretly exporting to Kenya millions of plastic waste clothing disguised as second-hand clothes.

The UN agency responsible for global coordination of environment protection has stated in a letter addressed to Clean Up Kenya Founder and Patron, Betterman Simidi, that the agency “does not have a policy brief on synthetic textiles” and has “not done any specific research on textile plastic waste.”

This is very worrying given the findings in our report which shows how plastic waste clothing is having a devastating impact on the environment and vulnerable communities in Kenya. The documentary clearly shows that clothing waste is contributing to the high levels of debris pollution on the Nairobi River as well as affecting communities who work on the Dandora dumpsite surroundings areas in Nairobi, where there is tremendous air pollution caused by the open incineration of waste synthetic clothing and other materials.

The agency further states the implementation of the Basel Convention is solely the duty of the Member States, highlighting the responsibility of the Kenyan government and exporting countries to address the issue.

Finally in the letter, the agency suggests that waste plastic clothing is not categorised as hazardous waste and may not be subject to the provisions of the Basel Convention and the amendments that have come later.

Betterman Simidi, Founder and Patron of Clean Up Kenya has said, “We thank the agency for providing this statement and further encourage UN Environment to come up with a policy brief on synthetic textile waste and invest more in research on this problem and further advice governments appropriately on the same. This is particularly urgent given there are ongoing negotiations for a legally binding global treaty for plastics. The discussions on synthetic textiles waste which is really the end of the runway for fossil fashion must not be missed.”

George Harding-Rolls, Campaign Manager at Changing Markets Foundation has said, “This statement from UNEP highlights a major loophole in the Basel Convention. Our investigation has clearly shown the toxic impacts of waste textiles on Kenya – a picture that is replicated across countries in the Global South. As the export of used clothing, much of which is waste plastic clothing, is increasing year on year, it’s vital that trade in the trash is minimized.”

We have also asked the European Union and the United Kingdom to similarly make public statements on the issues raised in the report and documentary.

UN Environment Africa Office Statement


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.