Shocking detail in satellite image exposes fast fashion crisis

A grim environmental disaster can now be seen from space.

A mountain of fast fashion in the Chilean desert can be seen from space with shocking satellite imagery exposing a growing problem across the planet.

The disturbing landfill site has grown slowly over time but it is now so big it has been spotted by satellite.

Chile's Atacama Desert is the driest place on Earth, receiving less than 1mm of rain a year each year, but some parts of it haven't had a drop in more than 500 years. Such conditions have made it a popular dumping ground for unworn clothes that couldn’t be sold.

The sheer size of the dumping site is evident when compared with nearby buildings. Source: Jam Press/ SkyFi
The sheer size of the dumping site is evident when compared with nearby buildings. Source: Jam Press/ SkyFi

Clothing from fads, trends and once-a-year festivities such as Christmas sweaters are amongst the garments in the dumpsite, as are ski boots.

High-resolution satellite images, captured by the photo app, Skyfi, reveal the horrifying extent of the dumpsite. They found the coordinates of the mountain by reaching out to people on the communication platform, Discord.

“The satellite image that we ordered of the clothes pile in Chile's Atacama Desert really puts things into perspective," A SkyFi spokesperson said.

The site continues to grow with unwanted items. Source: Jam Press/ SkyFi
The site continues to grow with unwanted items. Source: Jam Press/ SkyFi

"The size of the pile and the pollution it's causing is visible from space, making it clear that there is a need for change in the fashion industry."

The fast-fashion market size is said to be increasing from $106 billion (A$160 billion) to $123 billion(A$185 billion) in 2023, according to a report by The Business Research Company.

Australia's fast fashion problem

In Australia, most clothes are worn an average of just seven times.

We import around 1.42 billion garments a year, according to data from the Australia Fashion Council, and just three per cent are made locally. On average, that’s 56 brand-new items per person.

Around 227,000 tonnes of clothes are discarded each year, with many incinerated or sent to landfill. Only 7000 tonnes of this are recycled into new items, sent to secondhand shops, or poorer nations.

- With Jam Press

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