Google Discover: The Fast Fashion Problem

Google Discover: The Fast Fashion Problem | Article

Fast fashion has overwhelmed the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, transforming it from a wondrous natural landscape to a colossal dump for discarded clothes. The United Nations has categorized the excessive waste caused by fast fashion as an environmental and social emergency. With the production and consumption of clothing rapidly increasing, it is crucial to address this issue immediately.

The Rise of Fast Fashion

Between 2000 and 2014, clothing production and consumer demand for clothes both skyrocketed. However, consumers now wear clothing for a much shorter period of time, leading to an alarming statistic: three-fifths of all clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators within a year of production. This results in an astonishing amount of used clothing being dumped or burned every second.

The Global Impact

Most of the discarded clothing is sent to South Asia and Africa, where the nations receiving them struggle to handle the overwhelming amount. Landfills, like the 65-foot-high one on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana’s capital, have gained international attention as symbols of this crisis.

The Fashion Garbage Patch

The Atacama Desert has become known as “the great fashion garbage patch.” Enormous piles of discarded clothes, bearing labels from all over the world, stretch as far as the eye can see in Alto Hospicio. The scene is reminiscent of the more well-known Great Pacific Garbage Patch. These piles include ink-stained jeans, suits, coats, and shirts, creating a surreal landscape mixed with other types of trash.

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Chile’s Role

Chile’s duty-free port in Iquique, located on the western edge of the Atacama Desert, plays a key role in facilitating the influx of fast fashion’s discards. Millions of tons of clothes arrive annually from Europe, Asia, and the Americas. While duty-free ports are designed to stimulate economic activity, the rapid growth of fast fashion has had unintended consequences.

Recycling the World’s Clothes

Truck drivers transport clothing that doesn’t meet importers’ standards to Alto Hospicio, where it undergoes another round of sorting and resale. Used clothes are traded in small shops, street markets, and La Quebradilla, one of Chile’s largest open-air markets. This bustling trade cycle gives new life to discarded clothing, preventing them from going to waste.

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