Letters to the Editor, April 7

Don’t dump clothing
I usually agree with Risa Buck’s advice about recycling, but her suggestion about recycling used clothing is off the mark.
Sending used clothing to other countries creates havoc with local economies. Well-meaning clothing donations have ruined textile industries in country after country, costing well-paying jobs and throwing families into poverty. In the 1980s, Zambia, Zimbabwe and many other African countries used to have thriving clothing and shoe manufacturing. With the onslaught of used Western clothing, those have all closed. International trade rules forbid countries to ban those imports.
Last December, Rwanda decided to ignore those rules and banned the import of used clothing. They followed the example of Kenya, Uganda and Burundi. Already, the U.S. Trade Representative has threatened retaliation. It’s not right that our overconsumption of clothing ends up costing other people’s jobs. As one Rwandan said, “It’s about our dignity.”
So if you want to reduce the amount of clothing in the waste stream, buy fewer clothes. Wear the ones you have longer and turn them into a quilt if they are worn. Just don’t dump them onto another country.
Michael Niemann

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