The Dirty Business of Old Clothes
Directed by Michael Höft and Christian Jantzch (2019)
This documentary is about a racket involving the German Red Cross and other charities that sells 700,000 tonnes of donated secondhand clothes to a for-profit company called Soex. Soex, in turn, sells the clothes to Eastern Europe, Middle East, and sub-Saharan markets.
This particular scheme is similar to those operating in other European countries and the US. The Red Cross receives five cents per kilo for donated clothing that is resold for €1.20 per kilo.
Filmmakers follow one shipment of secondhand clothing to Tanzania, where most people live on less than one euro a day. The flood of cheap second hand clothing into the port of Dar es Salaam has shut down a local clothing factory that formerly employed 9,000 workers. No textile manufacturer in the world could compete with an industry selling clothes they source for free.
The film features heartbreaking interviews with unemployed workers who often go days at a time without eating.
The filmmakers attempt to interview the chairman of the German Red Cross about the program, but he declines to speak to them.