NewsAtacama desert: cemetery for used clothes

Atacama desert: cemetery for used clothes

Thousands of tons of second-hand clothes arrive in Chile every year, 40 percent are sorted out and end up in the driest desert in the world. A gigantic mountain of clothing grows there.

Alto Hospicio (dpa) – Every few years, when a lot of rain falls, the driest place in the world turns into a kind of blue-purple sea of flowers.

The splotches of color that now run through the Atacama Desert in northern Chile at Alto Hospicio are not fragrant flowers, but used clothes. Thousands of pants, T-shirts and sweaters pile up and form mountains themselves, spoiling the hilly landscape.

Chile is one of the largest importers of used clothing in Latin America. In the nearby free trade zone of Iquique this year, 29,178 tons of used clothing arrived by October, according to the managing director of the association of local entrepreneurs, Darío Blanco, of the German press agency.

The goods are unloaded in bales at the port. About 50 importers sell the best pieces from it, the others – an estimated 40 percent – sort them out. “This clothing is disposed of in the mountains of our community,” says Alto Hospicios environmental officer Edgar Ortega of the dpa. Up to 20 tons of old clothes end up in this unique natural paradise every day, something that has been going on for years.

The biggest challenge for the fashion industry is the amount of waste that is generated by fast fashion, according to a statement from the environmental protection organization Greenpeace. The residents of Alto Hospicio see themselves as the end of a chain that produces in China, consumes in Europe or the USA and dumps in Chile.

According to Ortega, the city is financially and personally barely able to prevent the unloading, let alone clear up the landfill. Just five inspectors would try to catch those who dump their old clothes in the desert. “The problem arises much earlier,” says Ortega. Because clothing from other countries is not declared as textile waste, it is not clear how the sorted out imported goods should be disposed of. “As long as that is not resolved, we will not change the situation.”

It hurts Camila Palma when clothes are said to be rubbish. Palma is the owner of one of the many second-hand shops in the capital Santiago de Chile. Because there is great competition, many shops have specialized – “Angora Vintage” in the charming, European-influenced Paris-Londres district in the city center, for example, mainly in fashion from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Owner Palma raves about clothes Made in Germany on the phone. “There is very good quality, good fibers, good fabrics; I like how a piece of clothing is made, ”she tells the dpa. Camila knows what she’s talking about: The 35-year-old studied fashion design. “Angora Vintage” does not buy bales either, rather the pieces are selected individually at markets and trade fairs.

“Now there is a lot of plastic in clothing, that is the problem,” says Palma. She prefers to choose old items made from 100 percent cotton so that a garment doesn’t pollute the environment every time it is washed. “It’s very important to have a sustainable store,” says Palma. According to Greenpeace, a single part made of polyester can release up to a million microplastic fibers during one wash.

At Alto Hospicio, if clothing is set on fire to make room, the environment is also polluted. “It’s usually one big fire every year,” says environmental officer Edgar Ortega. The fire brigade tried to extinguish it with water, but the fire continued to smolder for days.

All of this may not really fit in with Chile, which is progressive in many ways in Latin America, has said goodbye to plastic bags in shops, for example, or has a recycling law modeled on Europe. It obliges companies to take care of the rubbish they generate. In Alto Hospicio, for example, a working group was set up with the Ministry of the Environment to include used clothing in this law.

In addition to a legal obligation, Blanco appeals to importers to take corporate responsibility for the waste problem. “We will look for the formula to recycle the discarded clothing.”

The company Ecofibra in Alto Hospicio is already making insulation material from old clothes. So far it can process three tons a day. Blanco envisions the importers, for example, to provide more machines for Ecofibra or to look for other alternatives. “One thing is clear: you have to take care of what is left over, you cannot throw it away any further.” Dpa

Betterfly, the unicorn that invests 50 million dollars in Mexico

The Chilean platform became the first Latin American company with B certification, and is focused on bringing financial protection to all.

Black market for smuggled plants is booming

They grow in pretty geometric shapes and look great on Instagram: succulents and other unusual plants are all the rage. Because of the high demand, many rare species are poached and traded illegally.

Cultural tips for doing business in Chile

To help business travelers avoid cultural issues when traveling to Chile, we spoke with cultural expert Gayle Cotton. Mrs. Cotton is

Easter Island: the navel of the world

Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui and Easter Island, is very far from anywhere. Te Pitoote Hanua, which means "The navel of the world"

Chile: Sebastián Piñera assumes defeat against independents and the opposition in the constituent elections...

The president of the board of directors of the Electoral Service of Chile, Andrés Tagle, has presented the second official bulletin on the election of the members of the Constituent Convention that Chileans have voted this weekend at the polls, and with more than 81% counted , the list of independents and the opposition would obtain ... Continue reading "Piñera assumes defeat against independents and the opposition in the constituent elections in Chile"