Seen from the sky, Chile reveals all its treasures: its volcanoes, its thousands of kilometers of Pacific coast, its Atacama desert and... its excessive discharge of used clothes. This is revealed by a photo published on Twitter on May 10 by SkyFi, an American company specializing in satellite images, which mobilized its community on the Discord forum to locate the dump. Captured above the town of Alto Hospicio, north of Santiago, the photo shows an area where bluish masses stand out from the brown shades of the Antacama desert soil. The 1.8 km long O'Higgins Park racetrack, which can be seen just below, gives an idea of the extent of what is actually a huge textile dump. And thus confirms the extent of this cemetery of disposable fashion.
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39,000 tons of clothing in the Chilean desert
In September 2021, it was the images of journalist Martin Bernetti for AFP that first drew attention to the discharge of Alto Hospicio. His report reports that that year, according to Chilean authorities, 46,285 tons of used clothing entered the country through the port of Iquique, 20 km away. Having become a platform for second-hand fashion, the country receives cargoes from all over the world with the aim of reselling them throughout Latin America. However, it faces a bottleneck. As a result, nearly 39,000 tons of shirts, jackets, pants and other fashion accessories are currently ending their journey in this desert area.
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The recycling horizon
Located near the poorest neighborhoods of Alto Hospicio, the dump is visited by men and women looking for pieces that can be resold. The rest of the waste is destined for slow decomposition, resulting in soil contamination by chemicals and synthetic fibres contained in clothing. To counter this phenomenon, some local private companies such as EcoFibras or Ecocitex have specialized in textile fiber recycling solutions, changed into new yarns for the first or insulation for buildings in the case of the second. For its part, the government enacted in 2016 the EPR law (Extended Producer Responsibility), supposed to regulate recycling. However, textiles are not included in the list of priority products mentioned in this law. Seven years later, it is clear that the problem of storing textile waste in the desert is still not a priority.