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Reversing direction in the used clothing crisis: Global, European, and Chilean perspectives

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Reversing direction in the used clothing crisis: Global, European, and Chilean perspectives

Autor institucional: NU. CEPAL - UNECE Physical Description: 92 pages. Editorial: UNECE Date: June 2024 ECLAC symbol: LC/TC.2024/52


Since 2012, the Alto Hospicio Municipality in the Chilean Atacama Desert has witnessed the fast growth of large illegal dumps of discarded clothing and textile products. Several tens of thousands of tonnes of textile waste cover around 300 hectares, some of which are burned on-site. Most clothes are made of synthetic fibres, and their incineration releases heavy metals, acid gases, particulates, and dioxins, harming the health of people nearby and damaging the local environment. Such dumps – also present in Ghana, Kenya, and Pakistan, among other countries – are symptoms of the problem of developing countries importing large volumes of low-value textiles, which they struggle to use in economically and environmentally beneficial ways. While local circumstances in each importing country are unique, the underlying cause is the export of large volumes of second-hand clothes from developed countries, driven by changes in the global fashion industry in recent decades. In this context, in 2023, the United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe (UNECE) and for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) conducted a global study on secondhand clothing flows and the business models driving them, with a focus on Europe as an origin and Chile as a destination. The study includes the results of fieldwork undertaken in the second-hand clothing markets of the Tarapacá region of Chile. It formulates policy recommendations that aim to improve the economic, social, and environmental outcomes of the global trade in second-hand clothes. Information about overall activities of the UNECE Economic Cooperation and Trade Division on Circular Economy is available at: