EU countries are dumping 37 million items of junk plastic clothing in Kenya every year that are too dirty or damaged to be reused, an investigation of trade data has found. The findings have been corroborated by conditions on the ground.
The dumping of these garments—including those branded by big names like H&M, Nike and Yves Saint Laurent—has been creating serious health and environmental problems for vulnerable communities.
The investigation was carried out by Clean Up Kenya and Wildlight for the Changing Markets Foundation (CMF).
A report on the investigation, Trashion: The stealth export of waste plastic clothes to Kenya, was published Thursday, a day before the start of the London Fashion Week.
The Overview: The report highlights fast fashion’s dependence on cheap plastic fabrics to make clothes that are not designed for repair or recycling and are increasingly seen as disposable.
- Exporting junk clothes to poorer countries has become an “escape valve” for “systemic overproduction” and a stealth waste stream that should be illegal.
- The team recorded shocking images of a sprawling Nairobi dump, located near several primary schools, showing waste in some places piled as high as a four-storied building and spilling into a river.
- The true scale of the problem is likely much larger because the investigation focused only on direct exports to Kenya.