Is Your Castoff Their Cross?

$1B in Western clothes flood poorer nations and may undercut businesses
By Victoria Floethe,  Newser User
Posted Dec 14, 2008 8:20 PM CST
secondhand clothes are a $1 billion busines, and a great deal is sold into the rag industry in Africa and other poor nations.
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – When you gave away last year's clothes, you probably didn't think that poor nations would pay big bucks for them. Yet castoffs are a $1 billion business, the Spectator reports, and may be threatening African cotton growers by flooding their nascent markets. Oxfam argues that its castoffs create jobs—washers, sorters, importers—but a study it funded blamed the charity for undermining West African textiles.

Western garments have gained a mixed reputation. Thirty-one countries ban them; Togans call them "dead white man’s clothing," and in Sierra Leone they're known as "junks." Yet they boost business for tailors, who restitch big Western outfits to fit slim Africans. And one Sierra Leone factory embroiders designs on the clothes to sell back to the West—some for as much as $300 a pop.