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Kenya’s second-hand cloth dealers kick against proposed ban by the EU



Second Hand Cloth Dealers

Kenya’s second-hand cloth dealers are lobbying against a proposal by France, Denmark, and Sweden to ban the export of second-hand clothes from the European Union (EU).

According to Reuters, the second-hand cloth trade in Kenya employs about 2 million people and provides their livelihood hence the protest against the proposed ban by the EU.

According to UN trade data, the EU exported 1.4 million tonnes of used textiles in 2022, more than twice what they exported in 2000. The three countries argued that much of these exported textiles when they cannot be resold end up as waste in their host countries adding to pollution.

They also propose that the EU apply the Basel Convention to used clothes, banning exports of hazardous textile waste and requiring informed consent to be obtained before importing textile waste.

  • “The export of textile waste from the EU to developing countries causes significant environmental, social, and health problems. The EU has to put an end to this practice,” Denmark’s deputy permanent representative to the EU, Soren Jacobsen, told an Environment Council meeting in Brussels.
  • The aim of including used clothes in the Basel Convention would be to reduce or even end exports of used clothes from the EU, and instead promote the development of textile recycling within the bloc, Cyril Piquemal, France’s deputy permanent representative to the EU, said.
  • In Response to these Proposals, Teresia Wairimu Njenga, chair of the Mitumba Consortium Association of Kenya, which represents sellers of second-hand clothes told Reuters that the importation of used clothes from European countries sustained livelihood for millions of Kenyans and also generated tax revenue for the country.

Njenga denied that second-hand cloth imports contain a large batch of unusable items that end up as trash adding to pollution.

  • “Nobody is giving us trash by force — what we are buying is good quality clothes, and if a supplier wants to sell us trash, we would be happy to refuse their consignment,” she said.

Njenga has paid a couple of diplomatic visits to people who can influence and overturn the proposed ban on the exportation of second-hand clothing by the EU.

She has met officials in Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden to argue against the proposal.

She also planned to meet officials from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade and the Directorate-General for the Environment to further push for an overturn of the proposed ban.

What To Know 

  • Kenya imported 177,386 tonnes of used clothing in 2022, a 76% increase from the amount imported in 2013, according to U.N. trade data.
  • African countries including Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, and South Africa are also significant importers of used clothing, the data shows.
  • Around 1%-2% of each imported bale of used clothes ends up as waste, according to research commissioned by the association and published in September last year, based on 120 interviews with importers of second-hand clothes in Nairobi.



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