After all, you may be helping someone in need and breathing life into items that might otherwise decompose in a landfill. But a number of countries in East Africa are fed up with the onslaught of secondhand items they receive from Western nonprofits and wholesalers, and want to ban such imports altogether.
The used items have created a robust market in East Africa and thereby a decent amount of jobs. But experts say the vast amount of these imports have devastated local clothing industries and led the region to rely far too heavily on the West. The goal is to stop relying on imports from rich nations, boost local manufacturing and create new jobs.
However, the law is unlikely to pass.
There is resistance from the U. Proponents of the ban say it has the potential to help empower East African economies. Production costs rose in developing areas, which led to a decline in exports. Government subsidies to the manufacturing sector in Africa were cut, restrictions on foreign trade were removed and the floodgates opened for overseas exporters, according to a study on the textile and clothing industry in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the early s, Kenya had about large-scale garment manufacturers. Bythat number dropped to 55, the study found. Fast-forward 10 years, and East Africa is still limited in its production of clothing and textiles. Kenya currently has just 15 textile mills, according to Fashion Revolution, a U. In August, Deborah Malac, U. Ambassador to Uganda, met with Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the Parliament, to discuss the ban. That law also gives African countries duty-free access to the U.
It makes sense that the U. Uganda alone imported 1, tons of worn clothing and other items from the U. The exporters who have the most to lose will likely put up a fight. When supporters drop off unwanted goods, those organizations often deliver donated clothing to the developing world and sell them to traders. They, in turn, sell the items in their local markets, according to The Guardian. We will remove our clothes, we will demonstrate in the streets.
Many people in the area get by on about a tenth of that, according to The Economist. However, the secondhand industry is rife with uncertainty, and traders have little control over the available clothing.
Shaded by ragged squares of canvas, amid choking dust and the noise of hawkers, shoppers can turn up Tommy Hilfiger jeans or a Burberry jacket for a fraction of the price in London's Regent Street or New York's Fifth Avenue. The Huffington Post reached out to Malac, but she declined to be interviewed for this story.Welcome back! Sign in to start taking action. Not a Global Citizen yet? Sign up.
The message, from a Tunisian man named Nidhal, had no text, just a photo of the name tag I was given during my graduate school orientation. I had given the backpack, with several bags of clothing, to Housing Works after channeling my inner-Marie Kondo and purging my closets last Thanksgiving, something I try to do twice a year.
Personally, I like to donating to Housing Works because I want to support their work. But, short of someone walking into a Housing Works thrift store in New York City, buying it, and taking it back to Tunisia, I still had no idea how my bag ended up across the Atlantic. After arming myself with anti-virus and turning on every possible cyber protection option, I gave into my curiosity and responded.
And far from wanting to hack me, he had reached out because he was also curious about how my bag ended up in Tunisia. A computer engineer, Nidhal was looking for a good bag that he could use for work.
These stores, he said, are stocked with second-hand goods purchased from wholesalers who either import the goods, or buy the used good from importers in bulk. As far as Nidhal and I could tell, Housing Works had decided not to sell my bag in its stores, and instead had sold it to a used goods exporter, or clothing salvager.
These are companies that buy used clothing and footwear in bulk, then sort and bundle the items to be shipped to countries like Guatemala, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tunisia. From there my backpack would have crossed the Atlantic in a shipping container, ultimately making its way to a fripe shop in Hafsia in Tunis. In all likelihood, my bag was sold through Trans-Americas Trading Co. The bag in question.
During the course of weeks of reporting, it became clear that the resale of used goods from developed countries to developing countries has, in recent years, become controversial. Charities like Housing Works and Goodwill receive such a large quantity of used clothing, in varying states of repair, that they cannot possibly sell all of it in their thrift store locations.
Though it is worth noting that my never-used bag was none of those things. But the New York Times reported that the items charities reject are often sold for a fraction of their retail price to wholesale companies, like the Trans-Americas Trading Co.
How to Donate Clothes to African Children
The US is the largest exporter of used clothing and worn goods in the world, according to UN data. It not only sends massive quantities of clothing to African nations, but also exports millions of dollars worth of second-hand clothing to Chile, Guatemala, and Mexico. In fact, when East African nations proposed a ban on second-hand clothing imports earlier this year, the US threatened to review trade agreements with those countries, according to the New York Times.It might feel like you've lifted a weight of your shoulders in cleaning out your closet and donating your clothes to charity, but everyone should be aware that your clothes don't automatically end up in the hands of someone in need.
Donating your old clothes to charity is a wonderful way to recycle and stop clothes from going to waste, however, there are both pros and cons to be considered. Sometimes it may be better to skip the middle man entirely and give you clothes directly to the people who need them.
How to Recycle Clothes to Sell Overseas
Charity shops such as Vinnies and the Red Cross are increasingly becoming more and more expensive, which is a barrier for low-income members of society who have relied upon cheaper prices for second hand clothes. And if you're putting you old clothes into a dedicated recycling bin, chances are your clothes donation is just the beginning of a long, winding path that can terminate thousands of kilometres and an ocean away.
The model at Lifelinefor example, shows that one third of clothes donated are considered good enough to go back into the stores to be sold, one third is packed up to be exported, and the remaining third is either cut up and sold as cleaning cloths or disposed of.
Check out this slightly lengthy but still interesting! Don't donate trash! Launder dirty or soiled clothing first, and even fix clothes in bad condition before donating, such as torn items, buttons missing, broken zippers, etc.Donation bins: Where do your clothing donations go?
This will make sure it can be given away or resold. Disposing of poor quality or ruined items can cost charities tens of thousands of dollars each year. Donate to a local organisation! If you want to make sure your donations reach someone, a good idea is to take them straight to a local organisation like a homeless shelter or women's shelter. This skips the middle man and you will have a better idea of exactly where your clothes have ended up.
This refers back to our first point about 'don't donate trash'. If you have old clothing that's in an unwearable condition rips, stains, tearsthen consider ways to re-purpose it at home.
For example, cut up old t-shirts into cleaning rags, or you could make a quilt with the fabrics of different clothes. Fast fashion has meant people are donating more and more clothing each year to charity simply because they get over a trend. Making an effort to buy less clothing, and higher-quality, classic styles when you do buy is more earth-friendly and also wallet-friendly in the long run, and will help reduce the impact of fast fashion and our highly consumerist society on the environment.
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Toggle navigation Fighting climate change through our everyday lives. Blog The pros and cons of donating clothes to charity. Make sure to weigh up the pros and cons specifically in regards to the quality of the items you're considering to donate, and here's some tips to help you: Don't donate trash!
Don't donate them at all!
Images: Shutterstock 1 Million Women is more than our name, it's our goal! We're building a movement of strong, inspirational women acting on climate change by leading low-carbon lives.Perhaps we hope that Santa Clause will replace them with shiny new shirts, jeans, blouses and shoes. Or maybe we just want to do some good. And who need it. But do most Americans really know what they're doing when they donate clothing?
For instance, do you think you are giving your beloved but worn jeans to someone with no money to buy their own? Perhaps some poor person in your hometown, or even far away in Africa?
According to various estimates, here's what happens to your clothing giveaways. In most cases, a small amount of the items, the best quality castoffs -- less than 10 percent of donations -- are kept by the charitable institutions and sold in their thrift shops to other Americans looking for a bargain.
These buyers could be people who are hard up, or they could be folks who like the idea of a good deal on a stylish old item that no longer can be found in regular stores.
The remaining 90 percent or more of what you give away is sold by the charitable institution to textile recycling firms. Bernard Brill, of the Secondary Recycled Textiles Association, told ABC News: "Our industry buys from charitable institutions, hundred of millions of dollars worth of clothing every year. So, at this point, the charity you have donated clothes to has earned money off of them in two ways -- in their shops and by selling to recyclers.
Then the recycler kicks into high gear. Most of the clothes are recycled into cleaning cloths and other industrial items, for which the recyclers say they make a modest profit. Twenty-five percent, however, of what the recycling companies purchase from charities is used not as rags, but as a commodity in an international trading economy that many American may not even know about. Brill, from the textile association, picked up the story. Take that pair of bluejeans you may have recently donated.
Here's What Goodwill Actually Does With Your Donated Clothes
Your jeans are stuffed with others into tightly sealed plastic bales weighing about pounds and containing about pairs of jeans. The bales are loaded into huge containers and sold to international shippers who put them on ships bound for Africa and other developing regions. Again, the price of your old jeans has increased a bit because the shipper had to buy them.
That's a percent increase in value just by opening up the bale of clothes. That's a bargain for African shoppers -- most of them are low-income earners who cannot afford to buy newly made U. And jeans are by no means the only American charity clothing items on sale here.And as you clear your home of clutter, you might have some old clothes, toys or furniture that could go to someone in need.
But donating used items is more complicated than you might think. To start with, items that you donate should be clean and in good repair. Sandra Miniucci, vice-president of marketing at Charity Navigator, a U.
Often, clothing is bundled together and sold by weight. According to various news reportsthe international trade in used clothing is big business. Sending clothes overseas might not sound so bad, but Bahen said that dumping clothes into some economies can end up putting local textile industries and clothing manufacturers out of business.
Bahen recommends looking into specialized local charities that accept clothing. Other organizations accept donations of business suits for people to wear to job interviews. For more general clothing, Goodwill might be a good option, she said, as some locations employ people who have trouble finding work to give them retail job experience, on top of just selling discounted clothes.
Unfortunately for the legitimate charities that use donation bins set up in parking lots, there are now many clothing donation bins run by for-profit companies. A proliferation of for-profit bins actually hurts legitimate charities sometimes. A lot of the clothes dropped in a for-profit bin end up getting sent overseassaid Miniutti, causing the economic problems outlined above.
When it comes to items that have value, Bahen suggests you consider selling them online or at a yard sale, and then just donating the money to the charity of your choice. She worries that people are sometimes using donations as a way to clear out their garages.
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Have you ever wondered why people make charitable donations? Modern Slavery Statement. Donate to a charity Search. Register Log in. Menu Close Donate to a charity. CAF Bank Manage your bank account. CAF Charity Account Take complete control over your everyday giving by choosing how and when you support the causes you care about. Donating around the world. Why do people give? How to use social media to support charities.L eaflets from charities and clothing recycling companies fall through the letterbox all the time asking for donations of old clothes.
In supermarket carparks there are clothing banks for unwanted, wearable clothes, but where do all these clothes go? Torn clothes are recycled and used again as things like insulation materials, and soiled garments end up in landfill or incinerated.
Most donated clothes are exported overseas. A massive m kilograms of clothes equivalent to 2. Although it is more sustainable to keep wearing old clothes, proponents argue that exporting second-hand clothes around the world reduces waste.
But this green argument often ignores one important question: what are the impacts of used clothing overseas? It is actually a common misconception that organisations such as Oxfam and the Salvation Army distribute second-hand clothes freely in the developing world. To be fair to the major charities, they do not claim to give your old jeans and T-shirts away for free, but it is not readily apparent that donated clothes will be sold to traders who will then retail them.
Second-hand clothes from an array of developed countries dominate local market stalls in sub-Saharan Africa. Across the African continent second-hand clothes are a mainstay of informal traders, even accounting for the majority of clothing sales in some countries.
In Nigeria they are known as kafa ulaya the clothes of the dead whites and roupa da calamidade clothing of the calamity in Mozambique. Selling clothes does provide some jobs but there are also negative impacts. Stallholders like Mario, who works in Maputo, can make a living and support his family selling second-hand clothes, but the variable quality of second-hand clothes make it a risky livelihood.
Africans have little influence over what second-hand clothes are available for sale. And donated underwear raises issues of human dignity, with some countries such as Zimbabwe moving to ban imported underwear.
In a trade that Mario and other market traders call a totobola or lotteryit is difficult to escape poverty. As well as the social and cultural effects, are the economic impacts of used clothing imports, which forge a relationship of dependency on the west and in many ways prevent Africa from developing.
After the end of colonialism the plan was for Africans to produce their own clothes and other basic goods to help industrialise and develop economies as happened in China and South Korea. Yet in the s and s, clothing industries declined and imports of used clothes increased. African leaders were forced to liberalise their economies under political pressure from banks and governments in the west who had earlier lent them money, and to whom they owed massive interest repayments.
Liberal economic reforms to the market meant the removal of barriers to trade, such as import taxes and quotas, which had protected new factories. Once fragile economies were open to imports — like cheap second-hand clothes — there was a wholesale collapse of vast swathes of local industry. Cheaper imported goods flooded African markets and workers in clothing factories lost their jobs. Meanwhile, the debt crises as well as the long-term decline in the price of agricultural products, such as cotton, led to falling incomes across the continent.
Stopping the trade of second-hand clothes will not enable the development of clothing industries in Africa alone, but your old jeans and T-shirts are often unwittingly part of the problem. He tweets DrABrooks. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled advertisement feature.
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