This post was originally published on Eco Watch
A mountain of unused fast fashion clothing items in the Atacama Desert in Chile has grown so large that satellites have captured clear images of it.
SkyFi, a satellite imagery app company, asked members of its Discord channel to help identify the coordinates of the the massive piles of garments. With this information, the company was able to access satellite images that clearly showed the landfill of unused clothing. According to SkyFi, it purchased the 50 cm “Very High Resolution” image for $44.
“The satellite image that we ordered of the clothes pile in Chile’s Atacama Desert really puts things into perspective,” SkyFi said in a blog post. “The size of the pile and the pollution it’s causing are visible from space, making it clear that there is a need for change in the fashion industry.”
In the image, there is both the mountain of clothing and a city. Comparing the visuals of the two, viewers can see just how massive the landfill of garments has become.
As Agence France-Presse reported, about 59,000 tons of unsold clothing arrive to Iquique port each year, and around 39,000 tons of the garments end up dumped in the desert.
“The problem is that the clothing is not biodegradable and has chemical products, so it is not accepted in the municipal landfills,” Franklin Zepeda, founder of EcoFibra, which develops insulation from unused clothing, told Agence France-Presse.
This area is a “free zone,” which was a setup meant to help local economies by establishing a tax-free area. Instead, items are dumped in desert areas of the free zone, so people can avoid paying taxes to take items out of the zone, Gizmodo reported.
The clothing comes from all around the world, with many items made in China or Bangladesh, then sent to the U.S. and countries in Europe and Asia, before finally being sent to Chile for reselling or dumping.
According to Earth.org, the fast fashion industry contributes more carbon emissions than aviation and shipping combined. Economically, consumers and businesses collectively lose $500 billion every year in unused and trashed garments. The fast fashion industry is also known for unethical treatment of workers, polluting the environment with everything from chemicals to microplastics and using high amounts of water to produce clothing. Yet these problems are only expected to worsen, as the industry has been forecasted to grow from around $106 billion in 2022 to over $185 billion by 2027, Statista reported.
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