Germany's used clothing exports rose significantly in recent years, with the country now ranking as the world's second-largest exporter of used clothing. However, within a decade, the amount of textile and clothing waste generated in Germany has risen by 70 percent, according to the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden.
In 2022, around 462,500 tons of used clothing and other textiles were exported from Germany, equivalent to 5.5 kilograms per person. Although this represented a 10.7 percent decline from the previous year, it was still a significant amount.
Poland and the Netherlands were the biggest buyers of German used clothing, accounting for one-third of all exports. Other important destinations included Belgium, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey.
Imports of used textiles to Germany fell significantly in 2022, totaling almost 63,000 tons. The largest proportion of imports (about 41 percent) came from Great Britain, with Austria, Switzerland, and France also exporting used textiles to Germany.
Despite the decline in exports, a considerable amount of sorted used clothing and textiles end up in African countries like Ghana and Nigeria. Commercial companies often transport baled old clothes by sea, with critics noting that much of the shipped goods are unusable and end up in the garbage. This exacerbates the textile waste problem in countries such as Ghana, where used textiles are widespread and often discarded on beaches or in bodies of water.