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Shocking images reveal the MOUNTAINS of cheap clothes dumped in Kenya – as experts call for brands to be forced to PAY for their waste

  • Millions of items of cheap clothing are being dumped in Nairobi that are too dirty or damaged to be reused.
  • Exporting clothes has become an 'escape valve' for 'systemic overproduction', investigators say.
  • The mountains of clothes create serious health and environmental problems for vulnerable communities.
While clothes shopping was once an occasional treat, it's now a hobby for many people - largely driven by the growth of fast fashion.
Now, shocking images from Kenya have revealed the real price of your throwaway fast fashion.
The UK is dumping 12 million items of 'junk plastic' clothing in Nairobi every year that are too dirty or damaged to be reused, an investigation has found.

Researchers looked at what happened to clothes exported to Kenya – including many that were originally collected by big-name charities in the UK.
Exporting junk clothes to poorer countries has become an 'escape valve' for 'systemic overproduction' and a stealth waste stream that should be illegal, the investigators say.
The probe by Clean Up Kenya and Wildlight for the Changing Markets Foundation recorded shocking images of a sprawling Nairobi dump, located near several primary schools, showing clothing waste in some places piled as high as a four-storey building and spilling into a river.
A report on the investigation, Trashion, the stealth export of waste plastic clothes to Kenya, was published the day before the start of London Fashion Week.
The investigation estimated that of the 36,640,890 items of used clothing shipped directly from the UK to Kenya each year, up to one in three contain plastic and are of such a low quality that they are immediately dumped or burned to heat water, for cooking and even allegedly to fuel a power station.
Trashion concludes that the used clothing trade is an obvious loophole in a 2019 legal agreement stopping richer countries from dumping non-recyclable plastic waste in less wealthy ones.
More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of textiles are now made of plastic, such as nylon and polyester, which are difficult to recycle.
Among items of clothing abandoned found by the investigators were items made by M&S, Nike and Yves Saint Laurent.
Kenyan traders report clothing soiled by vomit, heavy stains and animal hair.
A McDonald's uniform was found still with the name badge attached. An M&S item with the label 'recycle with Oxfam' was photographed being burnt to roast peanuts.

The investigators found that recycling firms listed as partnering with charity shops including Sue Ryder, Cancer Research, Barnardos, Marie Curie, the British Heart Foundation and British Red Cross were exporting their clothes to Kenya.
The true scale of the problem is likely much larger because the investigation focuses only on direct exports to Kenya.
Many items of used clothing exported by European countries pass through a web of countries in and outside Europe that mix and sort clothing, making it impossible to track.
Transparency should be improved to crack down on waste clothes 'laundering', Changing Markets said.
Customs records show that the largest direct exporters to Kenya of used clothing in Europe in 2021 were Germany, Poland and the UK.
Betterman Simidi Musasia, founder and patron of Clean Up Kenya, said: 'We went to the Ground Zero of the fast fashion world to unmask an ugly truth - that the trade of used clothing from Europe is, to a large and growing extent, a trade in hidden waste.

'This is known as waste colonialism and it is supposed to be illegal. A large proportion of clothing donated to charity by well-meaning people ends up this way.
'Why? Because the backbone of the fast fashion industry is plastic, and plastic clothing is essentially junk. Countries like Kenya are fast fashion's escape valve.
'Traders buy bundled clothing blind and understandably dump the growing percentage that turns out to be useless. In truth, our addiction to fast fashion is saddling poorer countries like Kenya with polluted soil, air and water.'
George Harding-Rolls, Campaign Manager, Changing Markets Foundation, said: 'Unless the fashion industry is fundamentally changed, what we have seen in Kenya and around the world will be just the beginning.
'The solution is not to shut down the used clothing trade, but to reform it. We can't recycle our way out of this problem. Instead, this hedonistic industry needs boundaries and rules.

'As such, we welcome the vision proposed by the EU. This should be comprehensive and include strict recycling and reuse targets, as well as plastic taxes to shift fashion towards more high quality, sustainable fabrics.
'Recycling companies can not be allowed to hide behind their empty promises and should be banned from exporting junk clothing.'
Martin Wildsmith, Director of Retail at Sue Ryder, said: 'At Sue Ryder we aim to sell as much of what is generously donated as possible. However, like many charities, clothing that is unsellable in our shops, we sell to rag merchants to handle on our behalf.
'Sue Ryder is a member of TRUST, Trader Recycling Universal Standard, which is a collation of charities and textile recyclers dedicated to boosting standards within the sector.
'Sue Ryder only works with rag handlers who are certified merchants of TRUST, which includes East London Textiles.
'We are very disappointed that this report has highlighted that in 2021, clothing was being inappropriately disposed of in Kenya. We will be launching an investigation into this issue and calling on TRUST to ensure that rag is managed in a responsible and sustainable way.'
Robin Osterley, Chief Executive of the Charities Retail Foundation, which represents charity shops said: 'In these days of fast fashion, charity shops play a very important part in facilitating the reuse of clothing, whatever its origins and whatever it is made of. The vast majority of donated textiles that cannot be sold to individual customers are sold to legitimate collectors - many of whom are licensed by the TRUST licensing scheme - who will sell them on to perfectly legitimate markets, which may of course include east and west Africa.
'The word 'dumping' is highly emotive and belies the fact that a huge majority of these textiles are sold to individuals who often rely on these sources to clothe themselves and their families.
'Charity shops are by no means supporters of fast fashion, and in fact we are by contrast very supportive of attempts to reduce the amount of clothing manufactured in the UK, perhaps by using Extended Producer Responsibility and other measures to reduce the impact of clothing manufacture on the environment.
'Charity shops facilitate the reuse of around half of the textiles manufactured in the UK each year, as well as raising vital funds for their parent charities. In fact 94% of goods donated to charities are kept out of landfill and incineration as a result, the remainder being sent to waste prior to them being collected at all. This is a critical part of the reuse ecology and needs to be supported and cherished.'
Sonja Green, Barnardo's Head of Sustainability, said: 'Whilst a large proportion of the pre-loved clothing that has been kindly donated to Barnardo's is re-sold across our 600+ retail stores, on occasions some of the items we receive are in an unsuitable condition.
'Barnardo's uses a small number of responsible and ethical textile recyclers for used clothing that has no market in the UK. All the textiles we send to these recyclers will be sorted and graded, before going on to be recycled or exported for reuse abroad.
'Barnardo's has signed up to Trader Recycling Universal Standard (TRUST) and, through this partnership, we are consistently auditing our merchants and asking them to reassure us about the integrity of their processes and their onward supply chain.
'All profits from our stores go directly into our services that support children, young people and families across the UK.'
The British Heart Foundation said it had ceased using the services of the trader linked to them in the report in March 2020.

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