‘Fast Fashion’ Clothing Dumps in Chilean Desert Threaten Environment

Apr 14, 2023

Thought Question: What are some actions you could take to reduce the amount of clothes that end up in a landfill every year?

In Chile’s Atacama, the world’s driest desert, people sort through piles of clothing searching for fashion items that can be reused. Unfortunately for the environment, there aren’t enough waste pickers to recycle all of it. 

That's because this area has become one of the world’s fastest-growing dumps for clothes. That growth is because of “fast fashion.” That means clothing that is cheap and made quickly in large amounts.

 A 2018 United Nations (UN) report said that the amount of clothes made doubled between 2000 and 2014. This was because people started buying 60% more clothing but not wearing it for long. The UN called it “an environmental and social emergency.”  

The UN also said that 8% of greenhouse gas emissions come from making clothing. It also takes about 2,000 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans.   

“Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned,” one UN report said. 

Clothing can also take a long time to break down. The chemicals in them are also very toxic.  

Chile became a clothing dump because of its tax-free port at Iquique. Every year, about 59,000 tons of clothing comes to this port. Most of it ends up in dumps.       

Companies are trying to take advantage of the problem. One company is making yarn from discarded clothes. Another makes insulation panels from old clothing.  

Photo from Reuters. 

Why is the concluding paragraph significant? (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. It highlights how clothing production affects the environment.
b. It describes how companies are trying to find solutions to the clothing waste problem.
c. It explains the concept of “fast fashion”.
d. It emphasizes the importance of recycling clothing.
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