Zero Waste Challenge: Reuse is basis of Nigerian fashion
Elizabeth Mearns

In this section of CGTN's #ZeroWasteChallenge, we asked our four volunteers from four continents to tell us about their local culture around clothing – which is, perhaps surprisingly, one of the biggest producers of global waste. 




Our Nigerian #ZeroWasteChallenge participant Emmanuel Ojirhevwe has a very personal interest in the clothing sector: his wife is a tailor's apprentice, learning how to sew and make clothes. For her it's a career, but Emmanuel says it's far from unusual for a Nigerians to work with needle and cloth.

"I was told that in some parts of the world, people only wear clothes they've bought," he says. "Well, here in Nigeria, we buy clothes – but we also sew clothes and make clothes."



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"We don't waste materials – we don't have anything to waste," smiles Helen, a tailor in the Ajegunle neighborhood of Lagos. Any offcuts from making or repairing clothes are saved: "I'll look for something similar to combine it to another dress, or to complete an outfit for the children."

Many second-hand clothes are well-meaningly sent to Africa from the Global North, but Helen points out the benefits of bespoke clothing. "You can't compare those things with ones you made yourself," she says. "When you go to the market, you buy your own choice, the color, the material you want, how you make the style you really want." 

As in other countries, Nigerians also consider what to do with the clothes they no longer want. Calling on his neighbor, Promise, he explains that the family is trying to exchange unwanted clothing for something useful.

"They're trying to swap some of their worn-out clothes for a plastic 'rubber'" – the cleaned-up former paint containers widely used for storing and transporting foodstuffs, as explained in the Shopping #ZeroWasteChallenge story.

"This is one of the ways we reduce waste in Nigeria, we ensure that these clothes are not just strewn to the waste bin or the incinerator or all over the streets," explains Emmanuel. "I will also do this exchange of clothes to ensure that we avoid the blocking of the drainage system." But that's another story...


This story is part of CGTN's #ZeroWasteChallenge as four people on four continents reveal how sustainable their country's culture is.

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