Where Do Your Clothes Go?
Where Do Your Clothes Go?
Over the last two decades the second-hand clothing sector has grown massively. The global trade in second hand clothing is now worth an estimated $1 billion every year. Not only does this provide those in third world countries with a valuable source of employment, helping to sort, transport and clean the clothing, it also ensures there is low cost clothing available for people living in extreme poverty.
How do your unwanted clothes help?
The second hand clothing trade may only represent a small proportion of the global trade in clothing (just 0.5 percent of the total value), but it has quickly become the leading source of clothing for people living in many African countries, representing 30 percent of the total clothing imports in value, and more than 50 percent of the total volume.
The benefits of the trade in second hand clothing for African consumers are clear, particularly in those countries with large numbers of low income families. However, it seems that even in wealthier African countries, people are still choosing to buy and wear second hand clothing from Britain.
Of course the main reason people choose to buy second hand garments is their affordability. However, this is not only the reason. There also seems to be a shift in fashion and consumer preferences in Africa, with many people turning away from traditional African dress in favour of Western-style clothing.
The import of second hand clothing is also helping to support the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers in developing countries by creating jobs in the area. The clothing needs to be sorted, distributed, transported, repaired, restyled and cleaned, and these are all jobs that can performed by local people.
Sending second hand clothes to Kenya
The majority of the clothing items we collect are sorted and sent to Kenya, where they are worn by low income families in real need of affordable, good quality clothing. Any clothes we receive which are not suitable for this purpose will be ethically recycled, with no items sent to landfill.
Kenya is one of the world’s largest recipients of second hand clothing. The trade first began in the late 1970s, when clothing was brought into the country to help those affected by wars in Zaire, Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi. Many refugees from these countries flocked to Kenya to escape the wars, and with them came charitable aid in the form of food, medicine, tents and clothing. During this time the clothing received from charities and churches was distributed freely to refugees and Kenya’s urban and rural poor who could not afford to pay for new garments themselves.
As the clothing donations kept coming to meet the ever-increasing demand, many donors revised their distribution policy, and by the mid-1980s, started to charge for second hand clothing items. By 1990, the distribution of second hand clothing had become commercialised, and as a result, affordable clothing was available to the whole population of Kenya, providing rapid growth in the trade of second hand clothes.
In recent the years the trade of second hand clothing has gone from strength to strength, and now many low income families are employed by the industry. Unfortunately, the rise in demand for second hand clothing from abroad is further evidence that many Kenyans are becoming poorer. Unemployment in Kenya has surged drastically in the past few years to an all time high of 40 percent in 2011, following a record low in 2006 of just 12.7 percent.
With such high levels of formal unemployment, many workers have flocked to simple, semi-organised jobs such as the sale of second hand clothes from the UK, Europe and America. In Kenya, it is now estimated that 50 percent of the country’s 43 million population lives below the poverty line on less than one US dollar a day. Thankfully, the second hand clothes we pay cash for here in Barry can provide low income families with affordable clothing, while helping to create jobs.
The key beneficiaries
The importers of second hand clothing provide the Kenyan people with access to a beneficial commodity. Commercial importers also create jobs. Most importers employ a team of 3-5 local people, along with additional truck drivers, security officers and casual workers.
Wholesalers buy second hand clothing in bulk and sell it onto market traders at a profit. Financial gains are dependent on the size of the operation and the competition that exists in the marketplace.
- Market traders
It is estimated that the second hand clothing trade is either directly or indirectly responsible for the employment of 5 million people across Kenya. An unemployment rate of over 50 percent highlights just how important the trade of second hand clothing is to market traders and those without an alternative source of income.
- Spin-off employment
Along with jobs for market traders, importers and wholesalers, there are also a diverse range of spin-off jobs created by the sale of second hand clothing in Kenya. This includes those who repair and iron clothing items, bag makers who aid the transport of clothes, security staff and manual clothing carriers.
Second hand clothing accounts for approximately one third of all the garments purchased in Kenya. Due to the extreme poverty in Kenya, many people cannot afford to buy new clothes sold in shops, where prices are similar to those we pay in the UK. Second hand clothing can be purchased for about one tenth of this price. Without the availability of such cheap clothing, many Kenyans would not be able to clothe themselves or their families.
For more information about where your clothes go, please do not hesitate to call our friendly team on 01446 735 789 or email: email@example.com.