Uganda Circular Textiles

Background Information

Uganda imports 80,000 tonnes of used clothing each year to meet the demands for fast fashion. Imports from US, China, or Europe in the form of bales can vary in quality, and it is a lottery for buyers what they will receive with some of the imported clothing discarded by the traders as the garments cannot be altered to meet local needs. The epicentre of secondhand clothes in Kampala, Uganda, is Owino Market, the largest market in the country and home to over 2,000 market traders, many active in selling secondhand clothes. Most traders do what they can to repair and alter garments for sale; despite this, discarded secondhand clothing ends up in local landfills. The long-term vision is that Uganda will develop its own textile manufacturing base, which will negate the need to import high volumes of clothes from the global north. However, until the textile manufacturing base develops, secondhand clothes will remain in high demand.

The Uganda Circular Textile project, led by consortium partners Uganda Tailors Association, Kampala Women Entrepreneurs’ League (KaWEL) and Management Training and Advisory Centre (MTAC), is designed to support a transition to a local Ugandan textile manufacturing base by incorporating clothes that would have otherwise ended up in landfill into new products and design. The project will assess the existing secondhand textile value chains in Kampala to establish the types of materials that are currently discarded and will explore commercially viable alternative uses for these materials. The project will pilot collection systems to divert unwanted items from Owino Market to a new Textile Reuse Hub situated at MTAC, and train tailors and designers to repurpose these goods for sale. The project will build separation and sorting systems for the discarded garments, which will be repurposed into new items, including new designs, accessories, reusable nappies and sanitary pads, cleaning items and soft furnishings. This intervention will demonstrate how applying WasteAid’s innovative whole-system approaches to the circular economy can create jobs and establish commercially viable secondary textile value chains.

It is anticipated that the pilot will have the following impacts:

  • Upskilling tailors and product designers to reuse secondary textiles – the project offers tailors (90% women) access to training and skills, business mentorship, and youth-expanded technical and enterprise training.
  • Test and develop various business models to establish and scale commercially viable value chains in the secondary textile sector.
  • Aim to repurpose 270 tons of post-consumer textile waste during the project period. Textile recycling helps avoid methane emissions from landfill decomposition and reduces open burning, contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
  • Opportunities for inclusion – stakeholder engagement is inclusive, targeting the informal sector and marginalised workers, e.g. KaWEL and women trader sub-groups and waste collectors. The co-design of the collection network and Textile Reuse Hubs includes such groups.

Updates

The project was officially launched on January 26th, 2024, and is currently in its inception phase. Several key activities have already taken place:

  • The first consortium meeting of partners was held to talk through the first 6 months of the project and to highlight key priorities (finalising contracting, procurement/equipment specifications, market assessment design, roles and responsibilities across the work packages.
  •  The first stakeholder meeting with government officials and partner representatives, where the project was officially launched, was held in Kampala. The attendees included representatives from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, National Curriculum Development Corporation (NCDC), and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
  • Visits to stakeholders and current designers involved in recycling and repurposing second-hand textiles.
  • The project team finalised the Terms of Reference for the Market Assessment Study to determine the types of fabrics that are dominantly ending up in landfills as well as to accurately quantify the amounts of fabrics being discarded. The assessment commenced in May 2024 and is set to be finalised by the end of June 2024.

Going forward, the project team intends to use the results from the Market Assessment to purchase the necessary capital equipment (sewing machines, shredders, etc.) to be installed at the MTAC-hosted Textile Reuse Hub as well as to commence with curriculum development for training. Timelines and designs for the training are currently being discussed with the NCDC.

Photo: Secondhand clothing in Owino market, Kampala. Credit: Faith Gara

Connect with Uganda Circular Textiles

Websites

Timeframe

February 2024 – March 2026

Status

Active

Countries of Implementation

Consortium Partners

Showcase Resources

A recent interview with Michelle Wilson (WasteAid) about the project by Subir Ghosh (TexFash) is featured here.

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