A mountain of discarded clothes, together with Christmas sweaters and ski boots, cuts a wierd sight in Chile’s Atacama, the driest desert on the planet, which is more and more affected by air pollution created by quick style.
The social impact of rampant consumerism within the clothes business – comparable to baby labour in factories or derisory wages – is well-known, however the disastrous impact on the surroundings is much less publicised.
Chile has lengthy been a hub of second-hand and unsold clothes, made in China or Bangladesh and passing via Europe, Asia or the USA earlier than arriving in Chile, the place it’s resold round Latin America.
Some 59,000 tonnes of clothes arrive every year on the Iquique port within the Alto Hospicio free zone in northern Chile.
Clothes retailers from the capital Santiago, 1,800km (1,100 miles) to the south, purchase some, whereas a lot is smuggled out to different Latin American nations. However at the very least 39,000 tonnes that can not be offered find yourself in garbage dumps within the desert.
“This clothes arrives from all around the world,” Alex Carreno, a former worker within the port’s import space, instructed the AFP information company.
“What isn’t offered to Santiago nor despatched to different nations stays within the free zone” as nobody pays the mandatory tariffs to take it away.
“The issue is that the clothes isn’t biodegradable and has chemical merchandise, so it’s not accepted within the municipal landfills,” mentioned Franklin Zepeda, the founding father of EcoFibra, an organization that makes insulation panels utilizing discarded clothes.
“I needed to cease being the issue and begin being the answer,” he instructed AFP concerning the agency he created in 2018.
In response to a 2019 UN report, international clothes manufacturing doubled between 2000 and 2014, and the business is “accountable for 20 p.c of whole water waste on a worldwide stage”.
To make a single pair of denims requires 7,500 litres (2,000 gallons) of water.
The identical report mentioned clothes and footwear manufacturing contributes 8 p.c of worldwide greenhouse gases, and that “each second, an quantity of textiles equal to a rubbish truck is buried or burned”.
Whether or not the clothes piles are not noted within the open or buried underground, they pollute the surroundings, releasing pollution into the air or underground water channels.
Clothes, both artificial or handled with chemical compounds, can take 200 years to biodegrade and is as poisonous as discarded tyres or plastic supplies.
Chile, the richest nation in South America, is understood for the voracious consumerism of its inhabitants.
Issues are altering, although, based on Rosario Hevia, who opened a retailer to recycle youngsters’s garments earlier than founding in 2019 Ecocitex, an organization that creates yarn from items of discarded textiles and clothes in a poor state. The method makes use of neither water nor chemical compounds.
“For a few years we consumed, and nobody appeared to care that an increasing number of textile waste was being generated,” she mentioned.
“However now, individuals are beginning to query themselves.”