What Actually Happens To The Clothes We Give To Charity Shops?

A new BBC documentary says they don’t end up in our local stores; they’re exported to Africa.

1. You might think that all the clothes you take to your local charity shop are sold there, but according to a new documentary, This World: The Secret Life of Your Clothes, that’s not the case.




In fact, charity shops can only sell a fraction of the clothes they receive. They pass them on to recycling businesses, which pay around £500 a ton for donated clothes. It’s the first stage in a journey that can take our clothes thousands of miles.

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2. The presenter, Ade Adepitan, follows the trail to Ghana, the biggest importer of our cast-offs. Over £1 million of our old clothes arrives here every week.




Adepitan meets the people who making a living from our old cast-offs, from wholesalers and market traders to the importers raking in a staggering £25,000 a day.

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3. And he finds that this influx of cheap western clothes is destroying local clothing markets.


With cheaply made clothes flooding the market, the local textile industry has been decimated. Adepitan visits the one of last remaining cloth factories and finds it on its knees.

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4. The deluge of our clothes isn’t just destroying jobs: it’s also had a seismic effect on Ghanaian culture.


A trader in rural Kete Krachi.

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5. Western outfits are fast replacing iconic West African prints and traditional garb.


A trader in Kejetia market, Kumasi.

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6. Adepitan travels to remote villages to find everyone wearing British high-street brands like Dorothy Perkins, Marks & Spencer, and Next.

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This World: The Secret Life of Your Clothes airs on BBC Two tonight at 9pm.

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Alan White is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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