I believe one of the most important causes that lead to the worldwide issue of waste accumulation is awareness and our removal from understanding the realities of where our trash goes. Despite the fact that projects like the transformation of the Keele Valley Landfill, James Corner’s Fresh Kills, and David De Rothschild’s Plastiki aim to bring awareness to this gap in our consumption and waste, the majority of people have no idea where their waste ends up.
What’s even more interesting to me is how the knowledge gap between of “developed” and “developing” economies on this matter. Cradle-to-cradle addresses the fact that “throwaway products” have become the norm. Yet when socio-economic circumstances require frugality, people have been more ingenious with recycling and reusing products to lengthen their lifespan by fixing, amending, or repurposing. The documentary Waste Land of Brazilian artists Vik Muniz’s “Pictures of Garbage Series” points out that garbage pickers in Brazil are able to distinguish the waste of richer neighborhoods from that of poorer neighborhoods. This is generally due to richer neighborhoods using garbage bags, and poorer neighborhoods reusing plastic shopping bags. Muniz aims to highlight the human spirit through his transformation of garbage to art, but the documentary points out the creativity of the catadores due to their awareness of what happens to waste.