Chile’s Atacama desert is now one of the world’s most fashionable dumpsites. The desert land found in Alto Hospicio, has over 59,000 tons of clothing from all around the world, including the United States. Producers drop mass shipments of unsold and secondhand clothing at the Iquique port free-zone. The “free-zone” depicted is the Atacama desert, a natural part of Earth. Santiago, Chile’s capital, purchases only about 10% of the clothing. The leftover clothing sits piled high on the world’s most fashionable dumpsites.

Local authorities have classified the dumpsite to be illegal due to the matter of littering and pollution. Yet, Alexis Carreno, the proposed owner of the land, protests this accusation and supports the desert of fast fashion. He alludes to his acts as a work of charity. Carreno allows immigrants that flea from nearby areas to come and get whatever they need from the piles. Immigrants in need may see this dumpsite as a resource; however, the clothing is not biodegradable due to the toxins used in its production. These piles of clothing are polluting the soil and waterways of the surrounding desert. A program where we donate directly to these immigrants rather than dumping millions of garments onto the ground nearby, would be more beneficial.

Fast Fashion

The fast fashion industry discards over 92 million tons of clothing each year. The United States is responsible for roughly over 17 million tons of this discarded clothing a year. Fast fashion is a market that provides consumers with mass-produced, inexpensive clothes created at the expense of workers and the environment. In other words, your favorite brands are polluting the world. The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions. The fashion industry is also the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply and pollutes the oceans with micro-plastics. In addition, the industry is now dumping billions of clothing into the Atacama desert, making it the world’s most fashionable dumpsite.

Furthermore, as the world is broadcasting this issue via digital media, producers have known for years the damage being done. Charlotte Tate, Labor Justice Campaigns director for Green America, states “I think that corporations know that they’re producing cheap clothing that won’t last long and often can’t be reused–they’ve known it for a while. The bulk of the responsibility falls on corporations and our daily practices. And to some extent it falls on our government who has the power to regulate, that maybe hasn’t.” These corporations may have some fear to face for this rampant consumerism.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DERFA, has included Chile in a proposal for Extended Producer Responsibility. In summary, producers will be held responsible for the expenses of managing and recovering the waste they produce. Producers will also be required to increase their waste reuse waste by over 30%. We as consumers also have the responsibility to not add to this global issue. Donate your clothes to those in need, if not, you’re apart of the problem.    

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Photo by Katie Rodriguez

Featured Photo by Artificial Photography