Friday, June 22, 2007

Ever wonder where your old give-away clothes go?

Try the Dominican Republic:

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Pedernales is home to one cement factory, an aluminum mining operation and a facility whose sole purpose is to sort and burn used clothing from North America.
The poor would scavenge through the clothes, but after one was killed beneath the delivery truck, the soldiers now burn the clothing:

In the past an armed guard accompanied the delivery truck taking unwanted clothing from the Pedernales facility to a dump. Scavengers at the site would collect the garments to sell in shops or to local merchants.

That custom has changed, largely due to the frenzy over potentially valuable clothing in the piles.

Velez said sometimes there's a great find among the clothing heaps, which explains the occasional media image of poor Caribbeans dressed in designer shirts and hats.

It's the quest for those high-quality garments that led to tragedy and even one death among the scavengers.

"There are packs that hold jeans and very valuable stuff ... so people start jumping on the truck as it is moving," recounted Velez.

"One guy got entangled with the tire, and it ran over him and killed him. They have had many accidents like broken legs when the [clothing] packs fall on people."

After the fatal accident, the truckers began routinely setting the clothes on fire to discourage people from attacking the vehicle to scavenge the contents.

In what Velez calls a symbiotic relationship, now the driver and guard will allow the scavengers 10 minutes of sifting, in exchange for manually unloading the sacks of clothes that get stuck in the cargo bay when the truck dumps its load.

Once that time is up, the driver and guard, who work for the clothes sorting facility, set the piles ablaze.

What a waste.

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