14 November 2021

Chile - The fast-fashion waste mountain

Gigantic pile of clothes including Christmas sweaters and ski boots looms over desert in Chile – a symbol of how the industry is polluting the world writes Davis Alvarez for the MailOnline


Some 39,000 tons of discarded clothes end up in the mountainous Atacama Desert in Chile each year.

Map of Atacana Desert


So much clothing arrives in Chile that traders cannot hope to sell it and no one is willing to pay the tariffs required to have it transported elsewhere.

Clothing can take 200 years to biodegrade and is as toxic as discarded plastics.

But the waste mountain has encouraged some to start companies aimed at recycling the fabrics for more sustainable ends
The South American nation of Chile is known worldwide for its incredible mountain ranges, with a whopping 22 mountains peaking at over 20,000 ft.

But there is one mountain located in the Atacama Desert which is different from the rest.

The driest desert in the world is home to a mountain of discarded clothing, containing everything from Christmas sweaters to ski boots, as the pollution from the industry of fast fashion continues to grow.

The social impact of rampant consumerism in the clothing industry – such as the children forced to work in sweatshops or workers slaving away for paltry wages – is well-known, but the disastrous effect on the environment is less publicised.

Chile has long been a hub of secondhand and unsold clothing, made in China or Bangladesh and passing through Europe, Asia or the United States before arriving in Chile, where it is resold around Latin America.

Some 59,000 tons of clothing arrive each year at the Iquique port in the Alto Hospicio free zone in northern Chile, where it is bought by clothing merchants or smuggled across the border to other Latin American nations.

But at least 39,000 tons that cannot be sold end up in rubbish dumps in the desert.

To read the rest of this article by David Alvarez, click on MailOnline – Fashion Pollution in Chile’s Atacama Desert

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