Social and Economic Impacts of Clothing Trade—Debate on the Used Clothing Import Ban: Discussion Questions from FASH455

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#1 Why or why not do you think the used clothing import ban truly can help East African countries better develop their local textile and apparel industry? (please provide detailed examples, if possible)

#2 If U.S. citizens donate clothing to local charity organizations and second-hand clothing stores, in hopes to better the community, why are these organizations exporting the clothes overseas?

#3 Used clothing imports were seen as a threat to the EAC but were also viewed as having a positive environmental impact because the clothes were being up-cycled and recycled. Do you think if there was more emphasis put on the benefits of importing used clothes, due to its positive environmental effect, that the EAC would put more thought into their decisions to ban all used apparel imports?

#4 Notably, almost none of the used clothing exported from the United States to EAC countries are actually “Made in the USA”—they were originally imported from Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. Also, most U.S. used clothing exports to EAC were “free giveaways” by U.S. consumers. Is it ethical for SMART to oppose the used clothing import ban so that its own can make a profit? What is your evaluation?

#5 Why or why not do you agree with U.S. government’s response to the EAC import ban on used clothing? What could be done differently and why?

#6 Given the debate on used clothing trade and its impact on East African nations, will you continue to donate used clothing? Why or why not?

[For FASH455: 1) Please mention the question number in your comments; 2) Please address at least TWO questions in your comments]

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

26 thoughts on “Social and Economic Impacts of Clothing Trade—Debate on the Used Clothing Import Ban: Discussion Questions from FASH455”

  1. #3: I do believe that if more emphasis was put on the benefits of imported used clothes that the EAC would reconsider. Climate change is a huge problem in our world right now along with sustainability concerns. If they were to look more into the positive effects that these clothes could have on not only the lower class consumers but also the environment- I think they would reconsider the ban and import used clothes again-perhaps with some restrictions.
    #5: I disagree with the EAC’s ban because I, myself, am very concerned about our environment and the state that we are in. Recycling and up-cycling clothes is a positive thing. I realize that there are too many imports coming in and it is becoming problem so I think the EAC should put restrictions and rules in place and re-open these imports. This can be a very positive thing for the EAC and the environment as a whole if it is careful evaluated and the plan is re-worked so their isn’t too much surplus.

    1. great thought! As mentioned in the reading, EAC countries don’t want to be treated as a dumpsite for used clothing created by American consumers. Also, in history, no country ever achieved industrialization by consuming somebody else’s second-hand stuff. Should EAC countries be given the right to say no to used clothing? If the environment is a concern, why shouldn’t each country be responsible for the problems they created by themselves? Very interested in your follow-up comments.

  2. #5 I don’t agree with the US government’s response to the EAC’s imported clothing ban because the imported clothing ban is a great opportunity for member of the EAC to build their own textile and apparel industries and allow them to stray away from just producing in the labor intensive sector. I believe it is unfair and unethical to stunt the economic growth of nations that are experiencing such rampant poverty. In addition, if the EAC is able to develop its textile and apparel industries, US fashion brands can take advantage of this and use them as another sourcing destination.

    #6 Recently, I’ve been trying my best to avoid donating my used clothing for the very reasons stated in the article. Before automatically donating my old clothes, I have been asking my friends and family if they’d be interested in taking it, yet I usually inevitably end up donating a portion of my clothes just because it is a better alternative than having it pile up in a landfill. However, I think this issue says something about us consumers as a whole. Perhaps the issue isn’t where we should donate our used clothing, but rather that we shouldn’t consume so many goods in the first place so we avoid this problem as a whole. If we were more conscious and selective of the clothing that we purchase, then our clothing will last much longer and there will be no need to donate it. This means that we must shift our focus from fast fashion to longer-lasting, higher quality products.

  3. #1
    I think that the used clothing ban can truly help East African countries better their economy. When we donate all this clothing to these countries then there is no longer a need for the country to create their own textiles, which in the end hurts them as a developing country. If the East African countries are no longer receiving an influx of used clothing then they have to start producing their own clothing, which in return will give people jobs and will give these countries an opportunity.
    #2
    In the US there is a large amount of used clothing getting donated to second hand clothing organizations daily, but these organizations have no room in their stores for all this clothing. Many people think they are doing good by donating their unwanted clothing instead of just throwing it away, but often times stores like Goodwill has to send much of this clothing to other countries. If they did not do this the clothing would just pile up in these stores so often time donating to other countries is the only way to stop the large amount of influx.

  4. #2 The U.S. is donating so much clothing to these charities, that they first can’t sell every bit of it and second don’t have enough space to store all of it. Our amount of clothing bought and disposed every year is a ridiculously large amount and most of this is due to fast fashion trends. Therefore, those companies need another country to put all this extra clothing and East Africa happens to be a developing country that could possibly benefit from it but also the U.S. needs a place to put it “out of sight out of mind” which in my eyes is an irresponsible way to deal with this surplus of unwanted clothing.

    #6 Unfortunately, yes I will continue to donate used clothing to second-hand and charity locations but also I actively shop and will continue to shop at those stores at which I donate. I enjoy getting old quality pieces and revamping them in some way to follow trends of today. Therefore, it makes me feel a little less guilty about donating clothing but I still know that some of it will probably be dumped onto East Africa. I also think in my future I will buy more high quality and lasting pieces so that I don’t have to donate them as frequently. As a consumer, I don’t believe there is a lot I can personally do besides what I have stated, but I think that more companies should put programs into place to avoid this issue. An example is Patagonia which takes back their items and recycles them in some way. More brands should adopt these ideas.

  5. #1. The used clothing import ban can truly help East African countries develop their textile and apparel industry. An industry cannot develop when they are no demand for their product. If the supply of clothing is very high, from the import of used clothing, the demand for clothing is very low and textile and apparel investments will fail. People will always need clothing, so if the used clothing imports are banned the demand will dramatically increase for new clothes and the industries will profit.

    #2. The United States is a capitalist country. People are always looking to make money. If donated clothing is not going to be sold in the country, sellers look elsewhere. We also have a surplus of used clothing because cheap clothing is readily available and the population is willing and able to buy new clothes seasonally.

    #3. The EAC would still decide to ban used apparel imports even if it sustainability of the imports was a focus point. The EAC is developing, and they don’t want to bear the brunt of sustainability efforts. If Americans are so worried about sustainability they can stop buying so much apparel. The EAC would not accept this as a reason to ruin their industries any more than countries like India are excited about environmental restrictions. The developed world doesn’t get to pollute and create waste and then expect developing nations not to follow the same path to wealth and prestige.

  6. #2 If U.S. citizens donate clothing to local charity organizations and second-hand clothing stores, in hopes to better the community, why are these organizations exporting the clothes overseas?
    Organizations are exporting clothes overseas because there is simply too much unwanted apparel to deal with. Americans are known for overconsumption and are big supporters of fast fashion. Therefore, the turnover rate of a typical garment for the American people is much higher than some societies. With so many Americans donating unwanted apparel because they believe that it is morally correct, American organizations are overwhelmed with garments and have no choice but to donate to other countries that may be more in need of assistance.
    #6 Given the debate on used clothing trade and its impact on East African nations, will you continue to donate used clothing? Why or why not?
    I feel as though this is a very difficult question to answer as the overarching issue in this situation is that there is simply too much apparel being produced and no one knows what to do with unwanted clothing. Most people believe that the morally correct option to getting rid of unwanted apparel is to donate it but do not understand that in most cases, donating unwanted apparel is causing more harm than good. The issue then is that if we do not donate our apparel in hopes that it can see another life, our only other option is to throw it away which is equally as harmful as donating it. Ultimately, there is currently no good option for getting rid of unwanted apparel– at least if it is donated, there is still hope for reuse and recycling.

  7. #2 If U.S. citizens donate clothing to local charity organizations and second-hand clothing stores, in hopes to better the community, why are these organizations exporting the clothes overseas?
    I believe these organizations are exporting clothes overseas for two main reasons:
    1: Too much product and not enough room.
    Living on UD’s campus has shown me how little college students take care of their property. At the end of the year, giant garbage bins are placed outside of every wing of every dorm and all are overflowing after the first day of move-outs. Brand new fridges, printers, appliances, just thrown away. Sometimes students are kind enough to drop off their unwanted items at Goodwill. It typically takes Goodwill two days to shut down their intake window just to organize what kids have left behind. If a product is not in bad shape but there is a limited amount of floor space it would make sense to sell the products for profit.
    2: To make a profit.
    Goodwill can sell its close to third world countries and get more money selling it overseas than in can in the U.S… oftentimes companies can raise their pricing when selling overseas because the clothes can be re-advertised as new or people just need clothing. Selling second-hand clothing to make more money is better than just throwing the product away.

    #6 Given the debate on used clothing trade and its impact on East African nations, will you continue to donate used clothing? Why or why not?
    I will continue to donate clothing. I will just be sure to investigate who I am donating my clothing too. I might start looking to donate clothes to kids or homeless shelter because I don’t think they get enough donations of clothing to help them get jobs. I most often hand down my clothes to my cousin because she likes my style, but somethings I know she just won’t like. Donating is not the issue, its what people do with the donations afterward.

  8. 1. I think the used clothing import ban can help East African countries better develop their local textile and apparel industry. One of the main goals of the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) was to help EAC countries develop their economy through “trade not aid.” This import ban gives EAC countries the opportunity to expand their local textile and apparel industry, which can benefit them immensely. The EAC countries would be able to produce their own clothes, grow their economy, and create more jobs.
    6. I will continue to donate used clothing, but I will definitely be more mindful of where I am donating it to. I think it is better to give clothing away than to have it end up in landfills. Overall, when I shop, I try to buy clothing that will last for years and years, so I honestly do not get rid of my clothes that often. Overconsumption has become a huge problem in America with the rise of fast-fashion, so I think it is important for consumers to be more conscious of what they’re buying and whether it will last.

  9. #2. If U.S. citizens donate clothing to local charity organizations and second-hand clothing stores, in hopes to better the community, why are these organizations exporting the clothes overseas?
    I believe that regardless of where people donate their used clothing, they want to help someone who is in need. However, if companies are donating clothing overseas, they should let volunteers know where their donations are going. Another reason why companies may be sending clothing donations overseas is because our second-hand stores are running out of space and we have too much of a supply.

    #6 Given the debate on used clothing trade and its impact on East African nations, will you continue to donate used clothing? Why or why not?
    I will still continue to donate my clothing because when I donate used garments, it does not matter to me where they go, but just as long as they are helping someone in need. But, in the future, if I am unsure about a donation corporation, I will be sure to do research on where they send the used garments.

    1. great thoughts! Companies like Goodwill say: 1) they couldn’t fully sell those donated clothing received in the US and they have to go somewhere; 2) companies usually make money from exports and the profit will support other charitable activities in the US.
      Any follow-up thoughts and comments?

  10. #2 If U.S. citizens donate clothing to local charity organizations and second-hand clothing stores, in hopes to better the community, why are these organizations exporting the clothes overseas? With so many charity organizations who take donations of clothing, it would seem that there could never be enough that people could donate to fulfill the need, however this is not true. So many charity organizations and second hand stores are receiving an overflow of donations. This oversupply is causing them to have to ship this excess clothing overseas. It seems that although it is better to donate used clothing rather than to simply throw it away, but this issue is much more complicated than it seems to the everyday consumer.
    #6 Given the debate on used clothing trade and its impact on East African nations, will you continue to donate used clothing? Why or why not? Personally I feel that I will continue to donate clothes as I prefer not to simply throw it away. Although this issue of oversupply is causing issues in third world nations, I believe that most Americans are trying to ethically pass their clothes along rather than to simply throw them in the trash. It seems that unwanted apparel is causing more harm than good in some cases and until a way is proposed to lessen this oversupply, it seems that for now donating is the easiest way for consumers to pass along used clothing.

  11. #1 I think the used clothing import ban can help East African countries better develop their local textile and apparel industry because this way the East African countries will be able to produce their own clothing and progress their textile and apparel industry.

    #2 The U.S. is a big clothing donating country, yet there is limited methods to recycle and reuse these garments. In addition, most people will not purchase clothings from second hand stores because they want and are able to pay for new clothes in store that features the latest trend. As a result, the recycled garments has limited places to go and the only other way is to export them overseas.

    1. On which ground you think “used clothing import ban can help East African countries better develop their local textile and apparel industry”? Any evidence from the readings or other studies you reviewed?

  12. 1) I think that banning the import of used clothing should be beneficial to the development East African textile community overall. During this timer period where sourcing destinations are becoming more and more varied, East African countries which have the correct resources to develop a strong t&a industry should try and capitalize on the demand. By importing used clothing these countries are not given a chance to try and develop these specific types of businesses.
    3) I think that the EAC might put more thought into the decision but will come to the same conclusion. The EAC importing used clothing is not a solution to the environmental impact of excessive production and consumption. Its simply a way for developed nations to push their waste and problems onto less developed nations. The effect is that the US is being made out to be a benevolent nation and American citizens feel better about justifying their own consumption habits, while the less developed EAC are forced to figure out how to turn our waste into something useful. So hopefully the EAC is equally aware of this and maintains their stance on the situation because the imports not only stunt their economic development but encourage destructive habits throughout the rest of the fashion industry.

    1. great thought! In case study 3, we learned the US textile and apparel industry was able to receive trade protection in the format of quota for over 30 years. I wonder why the same kind of trade protection is not offered/allowed to EAC countries…

  13. Question #2 These organizations are exporting clothes overseas that do not sell. In FASH417 we worked with Goodwill and I learned that after a few weeks the garments go down to $0.99 if they are not sold. At that point, what are second-hand clothing stores to do with the clothing that is not bought? They are left to donate it elsewhere, and I think many U.S. citizens are unaware of exactly where their used clothing is going.

    Question #6 I will continue to donate used clothing, because although a good portion of it ends up being sent to East African nations, many Americans still benefit from buying used clothing. I also donate my clothes to Central and South American countries. From my knowledge, I do not think they have any current issues with too much clothing being exported. I think the U.S. should reevaluate where they are sending excess clothing and this may help East African countries and other regions that are in need.

  14. #2 If US citizens donate clothing to local charity organizations and second-hand clothing stores, in hopes to better the community, these organizations are exporting the clothes overseas because there are too many garments being produced. Although it seems like a good thing to donate to charity organizations and second-hand clothing stores, these clothes are compiling and just sitting there. It is better to export these clothes overseas than to have them build up in a landfill which in the end would result in extremely detrimental factors to our environment.

    #6 Given the debate on used clothing trade and its impact on East African nations, it is extremely difficult to differentiate whether or not I will continue donating used clothing. There are basically two options that we are given, one to donate and have these garments go towards nothing or become detrimental to our environment, or two for them to end up in a landfill which would definitely not lead to a good end result. For now I would say that I am going to focus on donating my clothes to friends and family who are younger than me. By doing this, I know the clothes are in good hands and that someone will be getting use out of them.

  15. #1. I believe the used clothing import ban truly can help East African countries better develop their local textile and apparel industry. By reducing the amount of used clothing that is imported, it will allow for EAC countries to grow their economies by creating more jobs. This will then revitalize their local textile and apparel industry, which will have a huge impact on not only the country’s economy but also the citizens of EAC countries. EAC countries’ economic base is so small that this ban would have a much more sizable impact on their economies versus the impact it would have on the U.S. economy.
    #6. Given the debate on used clothing trade and its impact on East African nations, I will donate clothing less than I would usually. This ban has completely changed my perspective on donating clothes, as I now see where these clothes can potentially end up. With that being said, there comes a time when you grow out of clothes or some clothes no longer interest you. In this case, I will hope to ask family and friends if they would want it before donating it, as I still believe this is a better option than throwing it in a landfill. I also believe thrift stores or Plato’s Closet is a great way to donate your clothes, as it could become someone’s new favorite article of clothing.

  16. #1 I believe that the used clothing import ban can help East African countries better develop their local textile and apparel industry. Importing an extensive amount of used clothing from the U.S. prevents their ability to grow their T&A industries since new clothing isn’t necessarily needed. If used clothing is being imported, there’s no need for growth in their factories, which prevents their ability to produce and export clothing and also negatively impacts the potential for more factory jobs. Their ability to manufacture and export clothing as well as growing factories to increase jobs are all major factors that impact their economy as developing countries.

    #3 I believe that if there was more emphasis on the positive environmental effects of importing used clothing, the EAC might be more willing to find a happy medium to this issue. Rather than attempting to completely impose a ban, the EAC and the U.S. could find a way to effectively regulate used clothing imports. By doing so, both parties and the environment would win. Although this is possible, it’s also likely the EAC would choose to be selfish in order to improve their T&A industries and their economy. These environmental issues can only truly be solved with efforts from all countries, which might affect the EAC’s interest in helping.

  17. #1 I do believe that used clothing to developing countries is beneficial. However, I do believe that the used clothing import ban can truly help East African countries better develop their local textile and apparel industry. I believe it is beneficial because they are able to produce apparel on their own, improve their overall economy, and produce more jobs. One of the main efforts of the African Growth and Opportunity Act was to help EAC countries develop their economy through “trade not aid.” The demand for apparel will continue, so this ban can allow EAC countries to strengthen their industries. Importing used clothing isn’t allowing these countries to develop and prosper through their own resources.
    #6 Given the debate on used clothing trade and its impact on East African nations, I will still continue to donate used clothing. In the US, recycling and reusing hold a lot of value. With that being said, I believe donating my used clothing to thrift stores allows me to expand my life span of my clothing and help those in need in my own community. I will also begin to donating to friends and family as well. However, I was not initially aware that clothing donation to Goodwill are in fact sent to EAC countries. With that being said, the US could reevaluate the countries they are donating to, which would allow the EAC countries to develop their own textile and apparel industries.

  18. Question 2: I believe that these organizations are exporting clothes overseas because it gives them an opportunity to benefit in some way. I also think that so many clothes are being donated because consumers have really given in to the fast-fashion concept that there’s a surplus. With this excessive amount I think there’s only so many places for those clothes to go and some cannot be given as donations so the only other option is to export them.

    Question 6: I plan to continue to donate clothing. Since I am a person that likes to stay organized and go through my clothing often and donate it I will make sure that moving forward I know more about where I am donating it to and what is coming of that donation. While I will continue to donate clothes I do intend to try to lessen the amount I donate by changing what I buy so that I am purchasing goods that I can use over a longer period of time. I will also try to find a different use of my clothes like reselling them so that I am not donating as often. I especially think that I have begun to move away from fast-fashion because of the lack of quality and use that you get out of those clothes and think it’s vital that other consumers learn these same things.

  19. Question 5: I disagree with the U.S’s stance on the EAC used clothing import ban. Although the importing the used clothes is good for the environment because they are up cycled and reused, I think that if these third world countries want a chance to thrive they need room to breathe. By giving them this chance to grow economically the state of the global economy would change for the better, and brands would have more options when it comes to outsourcing their production. Also, when Americans donate clothes to charity, instead of exporting all of the used clothes they could be donated to the people who desperately need them domestically.
    Question 6: I plan to continue to donate my used clothing. I believe that this is a better alternative for the environment than to throw it out and have it sit in a landfill. I also try to recycle my clothing as much as possible, for example, I cut up my old t-shirts and use them as dust rags. Also, I enjoy thrifting myself and feel that I can do my part to help control the overflow of used clothing by limiting the amount of brand new clothing I purchase and try to buy clothes from the same stores as I donate.

  20. 2) I think this is a really good question- if US citizens donate clothing to local charity organizations and second-hand clothing stores why are these organizations exporting the clothing overseas. In my mind, it is places like Goodwill who are sending the clothing overseas, possibly because the amount being donated exceeds the need locally, so why not bring it overseas? I do think it is very valid to consider US needs too though. I think people in second -hand/ vintage shops here tends to be looking for nicer quality pieces or perhaps brand names like when people go thrifting. I personally have donated clothing to an organization near my home town that I know brings the clothing straight to a homeless shelter because I got to witness this first hand. I am not denying that people in this country are in need, but also in people’s minds (at least in my mind before reading about this), third world countries need donations more than US citizens. While this is not true, it is a general thought that would require more education for people to think about this differently.

    6) As I mentioned in the previous question, I will continue to donate used clothing to the Operation Hope organization near my home town, and maybe to other organizations I can do research on to ensure it is staying within the country. However, I no longer want to dump clothing in bins that say they will donate but I am sure will just get sent to the East African nations because I think it is very honorable that they are trying to grow their own t+a industry, because this will help developing countries become developed ultimately.

  21. #1 I believe the used clothing import ban can help East African countries better develop their local textile and apparel industry. In FASh455, we learned that manufacturing clothing is a developing countries first step in industrializing and growing their economy. By constantly donating used clothing to these countries, these nations lack the drive to start manufacturing apparel themselves, and thus have hardly any exports. The used clothing ban will give these countries the incentive to industrialize and build a better economy for themselves.

    #6 Given the debate on used clothing exported to East African countries, I personally want to stop donating clothing. While donating does pose some benefits, such as recycling, these developing African nations have far more to gain by developing their economies.

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