The second-hand clothing business, popularly known as mitumba, is one of the biggest sources of income run by Kenyans across the country.
Kenyans enjoy affordable designer clothes and shoes shipped from different countries.
However recent report filed after an investigation by Clean Up Kenya, and Wildlight for the Changing Markets Foundation (CMF) revealed that more than one in three items sent to Kenya was thrown away.
According to the 2023 report, the items sent to Kenya are made of poor materials, such as polyester and nylon, that can not be reused or mended.
The investigators accused the established figures in the fashion industry of using poorer countries as dumpsites for poor items that are often overproduced.
Additionally, the report detailed that about 36 million mitumba items are shipped to Kenya from the UK each year.
Additionally, the report termed the high numbers as the loophole in a 2019 legal agreement stopping richer countries from dumping non-recyclable plastic waste to less wealthy ones.
“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,” Betterman Simidi Musasia, founder and patron of Clean Up Kenya, stated.
One of the ways the clothes affect Kenyans is through water pollution, as a high percentage of poor-quality clothing items are dumped in the water bodies.
“In truth, our addiction to fast fashion is saddling poorer countries like Kenya with polluted soil, water, and water,” Musasia added.
The report discovered several dumping sites full of clothes piled as high as a four-storey building near a river.
Secondly, since some of the items were used as fuel to boil water and even cook, the air is contaminated, resulting in respiratory diseases.
In addition, the dumped clothing items increase the country’s plastic waste, which degrades the soil quality, resulting in low-quality yields and contaminated food products.
“Unless the fashion industry is fundamentally changed, what we have seen in Kenya and around the world will be just the beginning,” warned George Harding-Rolls, the Campaign Manager at Changing Markets Foundation.
In conclusion, the investigators suggested that exporters should be banned from shipping junk clothing.