You give to Oxfam, (and lots of other charities), they sell it to textile businesses (not charities) who make a profit from selling it to poorer Africans! Oh the irony!

According to the latest available UN figures, the UK is the second largest used clothing exporter after the US. It exported more than £380m ($600m), or 351,000 tonnes, worth of our discarded fashion overseas in 2013. Top destinations were Poland, Ghana, Pakistan and Ukraine. From the BBC News

According to Dr Brook in his book Clothing Poverty only a small percentage of clothes donated to Oxfam end up in U.K. stores. Most is sold to be exported. The majority is sold through “normal market exchanges”. It is purchased by “clients in the global south “ who sell to “African traders.”

Apparently most charities do this.

“Only about one-fifth of the clothing donated to charities is directly used or sold in their thrift shops. Says Rivoli, “There are nowhere near enough people in America to absorb the mountains of castoffs, even if they were given away.”

So charities find another way to fund their programs using the clothing and other textiles that can’t be sold at their thrift shops: they sell it to textile recyclers at 5–7 cents per pound.”

Cambridge University issued a report in 2006 titled Well Dressed? The Present and Future Sustainability of Clothing and Textiles in the United Kingdom, in which it raised concerns that trade in secondhand clothes in African countries inhibits development of local industries even as it creates employment in these countries.

And the authors of Recycling of Low Grade Clothing Waste warn that in the long run, as prices and quality of new clothing continue to decline, so too will the demand for used clothing diminish. This is because in the world of fast fashion, new clothing could be bought almost as inexpensively as used clothing.

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One of the sad ironies of today’s globalised economy is that many cotton farmers and ex-factory workers in countries such as Zambia are now too poor to afford any clothes other than imported second-hand ones from the west, whereas 30 or 40 years ago they could buy locally produced new clothes. The Guardian

And it would appear that H&M have got it really sussed. They sell you the clothes then you give them back so they can be reworn…. or resold.  From the H&M website

Don’t let fashion go to waste

No true fashion lover likes seeing clothes go to waste. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to give your garments a new life. For example, we’ve already made some new collections from worn clothes – many of which came via our own Garment Collecting service.

Looking ahead, there are three ways to repurpose the unwanted garments:

  • Rewear – clothing that can be worn again will be sold as second hand clothes
  • Reuse – old clothes and textiles will be turned into other products, such as cleaning cloths
  • Recycle – everything else is turned into textile fibres, or other use such as insulation.

You can see all posts on Charity Shops here

You can see all our posts on clothing, fabrics and the plastic-free wardrobe here.

6 thoughts on “Selling second hand clothes to Africa

  1. Hi,

    Our company based in Canada is dealing with all kind of used clothes. We are one of the leading exporter of used clothes worldwide. We are in an excellent position to supply or customer with the quality good products. If you are interested please feel free to contact us.

  2. I am supplier of used clothing can you please tell me what kind of clothes and used shoes you looking for and how much are you willing to pay for a kg.


  3. We are a company base in Doha republic of Qatar and we are interested in buying used clothing and used shoe and will be happy to engage with the suppliers of said items.

    Our contact details are as follows;
    Matloob Consulting & Marketing.
    No. 21 Industrial layout,
    Aziziya Commercial complex Doha Doha,
    Tel: +974-702-82405 / +974-778-52734

  4. Dear Sir,

    I am Mr. I U, Collins,, I am a Togolese from Lome Republic of Togo, this country in western Africa I am a businessman dealing with second used clothing and hand bags I have been buying in our local market I will highly appreciate your response to know if I can be able to do business with your company and become one of your customer’s here in Lime-Togo.

    Thanks and God bless you and your lovely family,

    Mr. Collins

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