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A mountain of unsold clothing from fast-fashion retailers is piling up in the Chilean desert

A mountain of unsold clothing from fast-fashion retailers is piling up in the Chilean desert

A huge heap of unworn clothing is piling up in Chile’s Atacama desert.

An estimated 39,000 tons of clothes that can’t be sold in the US or Europe end up in Chile yearly.

The clothes occupy a large stretch of the desert, blanketing dunes in a layer of discarded textiles.

Heaps of unworn clothes are being discarded in the Chilean desert, adding to a swiftly swelling graveyard of fast-fashion lines past.

According to a report from Agence France-Presse, the massive mound of clothes consists of garments made in China and Bangladesh that make their way to stores in the US, Europe, and Asia. When the garments are not purchased, they are brought to Chile’s Iquique port to be resold to other Latin American countries.

AFP found that about 59,000 tons of clothing end up at the port in Chile every year. Of that, at least 39,000 tons are moved into landfills in the desert.

Alex Carreno, a former employee at the Iquique port’s import section, told AFP the clothing “arrives from all over the world.” Carreno added that most of the clothes are later disposed of when the shipments can’t be resold across Latin America.

The used clothes brought to the desert heaps for disposal now blanket an entire swathe of land in the Atacama desert in Alto Hospicio, Chile.

aerial view used clothes fast fashion atacama desert chile
Aerial view of used clothes discarded in the Atacama desert in Chile. 

“The problem is that the clothing is not biodegradable and has chemical products, so it is not accepted in the municipal landfills,” said Franklin Zepeda, founder of EcoFibra, a company that is trying to make use of the discarded clothing by making insulation panels out of it.

Zepeda, whose firm has been using textile waste to create its thermal and acoustic building insulators since 2018, told the AFP that he wanted to “stop being the problem and start being the solution.”

Fast fashion, while affordable, is extremely harmful to the environment

For one, the fashion industry accounts for 8 to 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, according to the United Nations. In 2018, the fashion industry was also found to consume more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined. Researchers estimate that the equivalent of a garbage truck of clothes is burned and sent to a landfill every second

And the rate at which consumers buy clothing does not appear to have slowed down in the 21st century. According to statistics from the Ellen McArthur Foundation, a UK-based think-tank and circular-economy charity, clothing production doubled during the 15 years from 2004 to 2019. McKinsey also estimated that the average consumer purchased 60% more clothes in 2014 than they did in 2000.


Cheryl Teh at Insider

On The Web This Week, 19 September

On The Web This Week, 19 September

On the web this week, the Global Climate Strike, trees planted on Robben Island and South Africa’s first road made from waste plastic.

Picture credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

According to a new poll taken in eight countries, a majority of the public recognise the climate crisis as an “emergency” and say politicians are failing to tackle the problem, backing the interests of big oil over the wellbeing of ordinary people. The survey, which comes before what is expected to be the world’s biggest climate demonstrations on Friday, found that climate breakdown is viewed as the most important issue facing the world, ahead of migration, terrorism and the global economy, in seven out of the eight countries surveyed. If you’re interested in joining tomorrow’s historic Climate Strike, details of demonstrations across South Africa will be included at the bottom of this post.

Picture credit: Roger de la Harpe

Timeslive.co.za reports that a hundred and one indigenous trees were planted on Robben Island on Wednesday in celebration of late former president Nelson Mandela’s 101st birthday this year, as the first part of an initiative which will see 10,000 trees planted on the island over the next 5 years.

Picture credit: dotsure.co.za

Businesstech.co.za reports on a pilot program in the Eastern Cape which aims to use plastic waste to build roads. The technology has been used both in Africa and internationally, including Australia, Canada, Ghana, India, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Mother-and-daughter team Anna Hartebeest and Harriet Matjila have built Makhabisi Recycling into an inclusive green business that has created decent jobs for 60 people. 

Picture credit: Ton Kung / Shutterstock

Yes, big changes are needed, but little ones add up. These 20 simple lifestyle choices from Reader’s Digest can reduce your carbon footprint—and make a major impact.

GLOBAL YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE / MAY 24, 2019. Over 500 students and other youth advocates across the Philippines joined today’s global youth climate strike in Manila, Philippines. LEO M. SABANGAN II.

And finally, the largest Climate Strike in history is happening worldwide tomorrow, 20 September 2019. If you’d like to join in, the details for demonstrations in South Africa’s major cities is as follows:

Johannesburg: Assemble at Pieter Roos Park, Corner of Victoria Ave and Empire Road, 10am

Durban: Assemble at the ICC , 11am

Pretoria: Assemble at the Union Buildings, 11am

Assemble: at The Greens, Corner of Cambridge & Keizergracht streets, 12am

There will also be a demonstration held outside the Eskom offices in Cape town, starting at 11am

Copac and the South African Food Sovereignty Coalition will be forming a human chain outside the Sasol offices in Sandton, 10am.

If you’re planning to attend any of these protests, please remember to bring plenty of water with you, as it can be difficult to stay properly hydrated outdoors and in large crowds. And finally, if you are attending the protests (or already have, depending on when you read this) leave us a comment below, or email any pictures you’d like to share to editor@lighthouse-eco.co.za