The desert in northern Chile has become the dumping ground for used clothes

Consequence of the fashion industry, fast fashion and the little legislation that exists for textiles, the imposing Atacama Desert shows some white spots, which are tons of used clothes that nobody wants.

In the photographs of northern Chile, taken from space, you can see the beautiful and great Atacama Desert. But also you can see places which, although hard to believe, are mountains of clothes already worn and abandoned.

A cemetery of clothes that lies there, without anyone taking care of removing it, while continuing to contaminate the ecosystem, since it will take at least 200 years to disintegrate.

It is clothes from the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia that no one wants, due to use or deterioration and they end up becoming garbage. But how did they end up in the northern desert, who is responsible and how does this affect the health of humans and animals?

Why no one monitors the waste that ends up in the desert dump

Dumps of thousands of tons of clothes lie abandoned on the desert hills near Iquique. From shirts, pants and coats to ice skates, this was shown in a report by the CHV, who was able to speak with Patricio Ferreira, the mayor of the municipality of Alto Hospicio, one of the hardest affected by this strange phenomenon.

Finally, it’s the trash of the world that we as a country somehow allow in that unfortunately enters through the free zone. . We have people who have been totally irresponsible with the garbage issue,” the municipal authority said.

The Free Zone of Iquique is a place where the Chilean State seeks to encourage economic development in the most extreme areas of the country, facilitating the purchase of goods through the reduction or elimination of taxes. Due to its location, it is the gateway to products from all over the world, but also to the tons of clothing that today litters the desert.

Iquique Free Zone.

Responsible for this area is ZOFRI. The CHV team was also able to speak with their director.

—Second-hand clothes are a legitimate business. The free zone cannot prohibit or limit it , First of all. But yes, what is relevant and necessary today is to be able to have, without a doubt, a supervisory role, which is not our responsibility as a free zone”, declared Roxana Cerda Norambuena sternly. .

Cerda Norambuena also assured that They have no way of knowing what their importers are doing with the waste.

So whose responsibility is it to take care of the ever-growing wasteland in the desert?

We don’t have the capacity, because it’s too much said Mayor Ferreira, with a note of nervousness.

The desert in northern Chile that has become the dumping ground for used clothes. Photo: RFI

Damage caused by used and abandoned clothing in humans and animals

The highest percentage of clothing contains plastic fabrics . The much lower percentage is made up of natural fibers, which have biodegradable components and can be incorporated into cycles, ”begins to explain Dr. Patricia Matus, an academic at the School of Medicine of the University of the Andes.

in conversation with The third Matus, a public health expert, assures that synthetic clothes lying around in the desert are plastic waste that does not completely degrade, but rather it “grinds” and begins to produce plastic microparticle contamination. The scientific community has warned of the possible harmful effects it can have on the health of living beings.

Dr. Patricia Matus, an academic at the Universidad de los Andes School of Medicine, speaks to La Tercera about the impact of the used clothing dump in the Atacama Desert.

And it is that the microparticles travel by the wind and, although they were formed in the desert -which is not so inhabited-, somehow, carried away by the gusts, they reach the rest of the country it is therefore not only in the north that the consequences of the dumping of used clothes will be felt.

“The sea is the one that concentrates all the rivers, all the plastics. Plastic and microparticles have been shown to be eaten by animals, from birds to fish, but also by us. There is huge concern right now about the impact of this.

The desert in northern Chile that has become the dumping ground for used clothes. (Photo: Jason Mayne/Twitter)

In the desert, a woman named Manuela said in the report that she was initially responsible for the piles of clothing. She revealed that it was “the garbage that ZOFRI throws away” and that she, who does not have the capital to buy balls, opened the clothes they left behind, selected what she used to. to sell at the fair and burnt the rest.

But the municipality arrived to tell her that she could not be burned due to the contamination.

In places where there are dumps, a spark is enough to start a fire . There, it is already faster than the contamination travels elsewhere. Uncontrolled burning is not the solution – the doctor agrees.

The solution: more conscious consumption and better laws

The reality is that we are becoming a world full of plastic and this, at some point, will be much more than a crisis. We must be aware and consume responsibly”, warns Dr. Patricia Matus on lt.

Chile has already taken some measures, such as banning the use of plastic bags, however, the issue of clothing is a bit more complicated.

There is an Extended Producer Responsibility Act that makes people who import or produce a product responsible for its proper disposal and rejection.

The desert in northern Chile that has become the dumping ground for used clothes. (Photo: MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP)

It’s something that big companies in the fashion industry and fast mode (clothing that follows trends at low prices, such as H&M, Zara, Shein, Forever 21, etc.), usually they don’t.

“All of these fibers can be turned into clothes in a recycling chain,” says Matus. And it is that the expert points to The third What What is missing is that the importation of clothing is mentioned as a matter that must fall under this law.

“The law says you import what you want, but you take responsibility for it. You have to show me that if you haven’t sold it, how you are going to get rid of it and put it in a recycling cycle, illustrates the public health specialist.

Once a person buys an item of clothing, the responsibility for what happens to it becomes entirely theirs. So to break this cycle of irresponsibilityyou have to have a conscious consumption, avoid single-use plastics and more sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion.

Source: Latercera

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