March 8, 2024

Kantamanto Market, Ghana - Fast Fashion & Waste Colonialism

The Kantamanto Market in Accra, Ghana is one of the world's dumping ground for textiles -- causing a devastating public health crisis for the local com.munity

Fires in Kantamanto Market, Ghana


The Kantamanto Market in Accra, Ghana receives nearly 15 million pieces of unwanted clothing weekly and is one of the largest secondhand clothing markets in the world. The market is a stark representation of the global fast fashion crisis, where excess production and consumption lead to significant environmental harm. Unwanted clothing is often burned, polluting the air, releasing harmful toxins, and causing extensive damage with fire outbreaks.

Re-sale Market

The clothes in the Kantamanto Market are bottom of the barrel — the last stop in a global supply chain. The clothes are often mislabeled and in terrible condition. Buyers in the Kantamanto Market are taking a gamble every time they purchase clothing bales, weighing between 120-200 pounds. Many end up with unusable items that only contribute to the growing waste problem.

The substantial economic losses endured by market vendors can perpetuate poverty cycles and socio-economic disparities. Efforts towards repair of the clothes are often hampered by limited resources and financial constraints.

Moreover, the displacement of people due to fires can lead to temporary or even permanent homelessness, further exacerbating their vulnerabilities. The local government and non-profit organizations play a crucial role in providing relief and support during such crises.

Overflowing Landfills

This waste has a devastating impact. Every day, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), the local government, collects 70 tonnes of clothing waste from Kantamanto.

The 70 tonnes of waste were disposed of in the Kpone landfill, the only modern engineered landfill in Accra. Unfortunately, Kpone began overflowing after only four years of operation and caught fire in August 2019. The fire is still burning to this day, putting the lives of 500+ waste pickers at risk from waste toxins, hidden sinkholes, or fire burn.

However, most of the clothes from Kantamanto Market doesn’t even get transported to landfills due to lack of budget; it is mostly left on the ground or swept into open gutter systems funneled into the sea.

Environmental Damage

The clothing waste at Kantamanto market often catches fires, creating a difficult and dangerous environment for second-hand buyers and waste pickers. The flames, smoke, and fumes pose serious health risks, and the lack of safety precautions further jeopardizes their lives. Moreover, the fires contribute to the air pollution problem in Accra, further aggravating the city's environmental and public health crisis.

Every year, Accra faces severe floods. During these, the massive amounts of clothing waste tends to knot together, blocking gutters and impeding the flow of water and waste. This further exacerabates the flooding, but also increases the risk of disease such as malaria and cholera.


The Ghanian government, and non-profit organisations are working together to regulate the import of second-hand clothing and promote sustainable fashion practices. There is a growing push towards educational initiatives to raise awareness about the environmental and health impacts of fast fashion.

The Or Foundation is working on remanufacturing cotton clothing they find into mops to divert waste from landfills and create employment opportunities for local Ghanians. They also host frequent clean-up events, where volunteers and local community members gather to remove clothing waste from the streets and gutters.

There are numerous efforts to improve conditions for waste pickers by providing them with protective gear, health services, and fair wages. These efforts aim to mitigate the risks associated with handling clothing waste and fires in the Kantamanto market.

Apart from these efforts, there is a need for stricter regulation over the import of second-hand clothing. This can help control the influx of clothing waste and its consequent environmental impact. Furthermore, promoting sustainable fashion and recycling can play a crucial role in addressing this crisis.