Documenting a Week of Waste

With their Waste in Focus project, the wonderful team of photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Aluisio are doing for waste what they did for food in Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.

In the project, released last week and slated for an Earth Day exhibit in New York City’s Union Square, eight families of varying geography and backgrounds are depicted with one week of their trash. Menzel and D’Aluisio sorted and displayed the waste for the portraits to avoid altering behavior and facilitate comparison.

Charlene Wimms and Donell Brant of NYC, New York, with their children Darius Brant, 9, and Terrard Wimms, 16, surrounded by a week’s worth of their recyclables and landfill trash, in February. Recyclable items are on the left-hand side of the photo. Items destined for landfill are to the right. Their total household waste for this week was 28.9 lb. Seventy-nine percent of it (22.9 lb) was landfill and twenty-one percent of it was recyclables (6 lb).

As you can see throughout the eight photos, the families’ food waste sits on the right of each portrait (with other landfill trash), packed neatly into containers. While the clean containment of food scraps belies their unconfined environmental impact, it’s interesting to compare different families’ organic output. And on the whole, the project works wonders in raising awareness on our waste output. These images are powerful and will hopefully motivate us to reduce the amount of waste we create.

GLAD sponsored the project and provides the online forum for the beautiful, story-telling photos. The company is also a welcome addition to the coalition pushing composting forward in New York City.

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