The Or Foundation, a global non-governmental organisation in Ghana, in partnership with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and traders of Kantamanto, is pushing against Waste Colonialism by the Global North in developing countries, especially Ghana.
This campaign is calling for manufacturers and importers of textile products to bear a significant degree of responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products, throughout its lifecycle, via the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) framework.
This includes upstream impacts inherent in the selection of materials for products, the impact from manufacturers’ production process, and the downstream impact from the use and disposal of the products.
The action against Waste Colonialism via the Extended Producer Responsibility policy seeks to call for financial support, global accountability, and transparency to support a justice-led transition from a linear to a circular economy through the overall waste reduction and environmental regeneration for better economic opportunities.
At a town hall meeting organised by the Or Foundation last week, the organisation declared its willingness to ensure that the EPR would provide assistance for markets in Ghana, like Kantamanto and others around the world to ‘Stop Waste Colonialism’.
Co-Founder of the Or Foundation, Liz Ricketts, in an interview at the event said, “We are here to call for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies to be globally accountable to fight Waste Colonialism. Meaning that if clothing is going to come to Ghana, from outside of this country, Ghana can not be used as a dumping ground.
If clothing is going to come to Ghana, then money should come as well to support the development of new infrastructure for recycling to improve the market ecosystem, to ensure that the people who work in Kantamanto everyday are no longer going into debt, handling the waste of other countries”.
The United Nations reported in 2021 that over 150,000,000kg of secondhand clothes are imported into the country on an annual basis. And according to the Or Foundation, this is equivalent to around 15 million items every week. These items do not arrive in Ghana as donations, rather they are purchased in bulk bales by retailers seeking to make a living by reselling secondhand clothing.
Or Foundation’s research conducted over the years has found that 40% of the average bale of clothing opened in Accra’s Kantamanto Secondhand Clothing Market leaves the market as waste. This leads to increasing debt for thousands of retailers working within this trade, for a secondhand retailer is likely to accrue a debt of $1.58 debt per garment for each bale purchased.
Globally, France is the only country that has an EPR policy for textiles since 2008, but its believed that their policy has a ‘colonial’ outlook considering how it is implemented.
“France is the only country that has the EPR policy in textiles and unfortunately it is a Waste Colonialism policy. France keeps all of the money in France but sends 80 percent of the clothing (secondhand) they collect from their own citizens to the continent of Africa including here to Ghana” Mad. Liz said.
“We are saying that this is not fair and that it’s not an effective policy. Because if the money is supposed to go and cover waste management and the waste is ending up here and the money is not coming here then that is a problem”, she added.
Director of Waste Management Department, Mr Solomon Noi also added the voice of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to the call for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
“This advocacy by the Or Foundation is to let them (Global North) know that once the quality is going down, it is having adverse effects on the waste value chain or the entire trade value chain of the secondhand cloth.
So either the quality must go up, or the Extended Producer Scheme and the little money that accrues from it should follow the unwanted materials that come. Because after all the end of life for those materials from the innovators ends up on our shores. This is what we can tap as a city authority to implement the infrastructure that is needed to treat the waste before land filing”.
He added that ‘at the same time, the low grade ones can be purchased from the traders for upscaling and for turning them into other recyclable materials that can have better value”.
Mr. Noi emphasised that the policy does not seek to stop the importation of secondhand clothing into the country but for the quality of what comes down to be better
“This advocacy is not to stop the secondhand clothing entirely but to raise the quality of the waste that is coming as well as solicit for funds through the Extended Producer Responsibility scheme to help all of us along this value chain and make sure that our city is free these waste materials that are choking the ocean for us”.
Or Foundation has already taken some secondhand retailers to France to interact with policy maker in order to push for policy change and some reparations to be paid to Ghana
“We took a delegation of retailers from Kantamanto to France in November to meet with politicians, to meet with people who are in charge of this policy and to demand that they change it and then they make reparative payments to Kantamanto and other communities like it immediately”.
There is urgent need for Ghana to collect ten thousand (10 000) signatures to hold France and the EU accountable, and to mitigate the impact of Waste Colonialism in the global south,
“The time frame with France is as soon as possible”, however, “on a larger scale with the EU, we have until June to ensure that the European Union (EU) does not put waste colonialism into law and adopts this structure to make it globally accountable. So in June, the European Union will put forward a position where they want to make policies for all of their member states and so we have to act very quickly to ensure that they will not make the same mistakes that France has made and will instead choose justice”, said Liz.
So far, over a thousand retailers and tailors have signed onto the agreement before making it public. Many market women in Kantamanto have taken it upon themselves to become ambassadors for this policy, sharing to their colleagues and making everyone know how this can support their community.
To support this project, kindly visit stopwastecolonialism.org and sign the position paper. You can also read more on the projects the Or Foundation has been working on in Ghana to create jobs for Kayayei, and trying to restore the integrity of our ecosystem.