Fast fashion pollutes the Atacama Desert in Chile

With nearly 60,000 tons of unsold clothes arriving globally from Europe, Asia and North America to the port town of Iquique, about 39,000 tons of fast fashion ends up in the landfill in the desert.

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Image Credit: Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

A land fill of unused clothing in Chile’s Atacama Desert exists and continues to grow. Fast fashion is responsible for the massive mountain of pollution visible in space, according to SkyFi.

SkyFi, a satellite imagery app company, identified the coordinates of the landfill of unused clothing and accessed satellite images of tons of unused clothes dumped in the desert through members of its Discord channel.

“The satellite image that we ordered of the clothes pile in Chile’s Atacama Desert really puts things into perspective,” SkyFi said. “The size of the pile and the pollution it’s causing are visible from space, making it clear that there is a need for change in the fashion industry.”

The Atacama Desert is about 990 miles long, it sits between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean and is the driest place on the planet.

With nearly 60,000 tons of unsold clothes arriving globally from Europe, Asia and North America to the port town of Iquique, about 39,000 tons of fast fashion ends up in the landfill in the desert, the BBC reported. Iquique is one of several “free zones” in Chile—a place where there are no tariffs, taxes, or customs-related fees, Gizmodo reported. A free zone is meant to boost the local economy, but unsold clothing in Iquique is dumped in the desert and therefore, no one is responsible to pay fees to remove the items from the free zone, Gizmodo reported.

“The problem is that the clothing is not biodegradable and has chemical products, so it is not accepted in the municipal landfills,” Franklin Zepeda, founder of EcoFibra, which develops insulation from unused clothing, said.

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