The buying, selling and trading of second hand clothing is a positive reciprocal transaction between consumers and specialised retailers that saves tonnes of unwanted clothing from being added to ever-growing landfills. Consumers who resell or donate their used clothing benefit from the financial or altruistic gain that comes with not throwing their clothes in the trash bin, while retailers get much-needed merchandise. Within this symbiotic relationship, another enterprise has been created that benefit from discarded garments as well. Textile recyclers take the garments the public and charitable shops no longer need or want and export those garments to areas in other parts of the world that have been ravaged by war, natural disasters and financial ruin. These textile recyclers help account for the fact that the UK is the second largest exporter of second hand clothing in the world.
Between 1991 and 2004, the second hand clothing trade more than doubled in Eastern Bloc countries and African nations, where people in these parts of the world lost their belongings in the ravaging aftermath of wars, drought and other natural disasters that resulted in economic devastation. This need continues to grow, especially in third-world countries, where imported used garments are the primary source of clothing.
Textile recyclers, such as Savanna Rags, collect, sort, grade, bale, seal and wrap high-quality second hand clothing for regular dispatch to African and Eastern European regional and local markets in need. While, sub-Saharan countries receive the largest amount of second hand clothing in the world, about 25% of all global exports, the rules for importing this clothing vary from country to country. Some countries ban the import of these clothes altogether, such as India and the Philippines to ensure their local textile industry is protected, while other countries, which also have healthy textile industries, such as Pakistan and Uganda, welcome the import of second hand clothing. Certain countries, such as South Africa, will take these imports, but with the restriction that they must be for charitable purposes only.
Textile recyclers, including Savanna Rags, also work with charitable organisations to support their efforts in Africa and other countries in need. Charities such as UHURU (Peaceful) Trust and the National Police Aid Convoys are committed to providing humanitarian relief to Africa, including Malawi, Mozambique, the Congo, Zambia, Ghana and Rwanda.