What Did I Throw Away Today?

A 100-day project to attempt to better visualize and quantify my daily waste. Visit the blog here.

We throw away a lot of shit.

Those of us in Western societies—and increasingly Eastern ones—live in a world of relative convenience. We buy things daily, consume rapidly, and ultimately spit out waste at the other end. Our trash gets thrown into bins & bags, and is then carried away to “another place” which occupies pretty much zero mental space for those of us just going about our lives; they’re wished into the cornfield, as it were.

The EPA estimates that the average American contributes to creating 4.38 lb. (1.99 kg.) of municipal waste per day per capita, of which only 33% (1.51 lb. / 0.68 kg.) is recycled. This includes, but is not limited to: product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint, and batteries. (An aside: keep in mind that all of this doesn’t even take into consideration the amount of CO2 generated by the production of all this stuff [products, packaging, packaging for the packaging, etc.], nor energy that it takes to transport these goods). But while figures like these help quantify the issue, they get us no closer to understanding what this daily waste looks like.

Of course, photo essays of landfills show up every now and again, and invariably elicit the same range of reactions and commentary running the gamut from “we need to stop being so wasteful” to “who cares?” to a studied and fervent apathy about the whole thing. And while we know on some level that our pace of consumption is not healthy it’s extremely difficult to change engrained habits.

This photo blog was an attempt to gain a visual understanding of how much waste one person generates. Each day I collected and inventoried all of the waste that I personally produced while going about my routine. All of the items were then be rounded up and photographed as documentation. Afterwards everything was be—what else?—thrown away (or of course recycled, where possible).

Some of the insights that I gleaned from the project can be read here and here.