Valentine Mayuran Emmanuel
Köln International School of Design
I loved the subtlety of this. Language, culture, branding and ubiquitous patterns of consumption and waste all come together in simple, delicate compositions. – Mark Mushet
This project shows waste not only in an aesthetic way, it showcases the comparison of consumer behavior between nations and between cities. Participants from around the globe were asked to collect all their waste for 24 hours and send these parcels. The waste was then arranged and photographed.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The relentless global pursuit of increasing GDP has been a defining characteristic of our world today, and in turn, living standards are increasing. On one hand, this leads to more consumption as a consequence of wealth. On the other, accelerated use of natural resources and rising production has lead to more waste and pollution.
The excessive amount of consumer waste represents an important issue that raises serious concerns and urge for action. This thoughtless behaviour of throwing things away has damaged our environment significantly. The long-term effects are yet unexplored. Already today we have plastic particles in our bloodstream, which cause leukemia. Men suffer from infertility effected by Bisphenol A, which is used to harden plastics, these particles are found in our oceans in masses. Only to mention two out of many health issues we could face in near the future triggered by inappropriate disposal of waste.
Consumers should not only be conscious of the product they purchase, they should equally be generous about the waste it creates. The 20th century was coined by industrialization, consumerism and GDP growth. In the 21st century, our planet and it's inhabitants are facing a tremendous environmental problem caused by our forefathers. However, we first need to induce a paradigm shift in our minds to make the future world a better place.
Inspired by the photographer Peter Menzel and his book "Material World: A Global Family Portrait", I wanted to show what people throw away instead of what people own or buy. The approach is rather qualitative than quantitative. My intention is not to point out how much they throw away, it's about the content itself. Comparing the content of waste, origin, gender and age of the participant, the viewer is forced to reflect his or her own lifestyle.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Initially, this project started during a workshop at KISD. We were supposed to sort and organize objects neatly by giving them a deeper meaning. The idea of collecting waste came into my mind while I ran out of trash bags and temporarily had to keep the waste on the floor. The result was a photograph of my own one day wastage. I took this idea further and decided to compare my waste with my friends and relatives, depending on their age, gender and occupation there were surprising similarities and obvious differences. Interesting enough to compare waste globally.
- I asked my facebook friends to collect their waste on any random day. Most of them collected during workdays.
- They were asked to collect literally everything they threw away in 24 hours. Including food waste, cigarette ends, bread crumbs, even toilet paper and napkins (not actual used ones just the amount they used).
- I had to pick up most parcels at the customs (It was indeed strange mentioning to the officers that the packages were full of waste).
- Within days I had my apartment full of international garbage. Which had to be photographed as soon as possible (the odor was bearable).
- A side benefit of this project was that all participants are now much more aware of the amount of waste they produce.
Buckminster Fuller once said “Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. We allow them to disperse because we’ve been ignorant of their value.“
It dosen't matter which practical value this project might bring. The message is clear: We should be aware of our own wastage, despite if it's food waste, cigarette ends, bread crumbs, or toilet paper. Consumers need to understand that they are wrestling with conflicting values within themselves, such as convenience, cost and responsibility. In order to reduce the residential waste, consumers need to use both rational and emotional appeals to themselves and to others whom they want to encourage participating.