Garbage and the throw-away economy…

[by: Martin Herrera –]

The planet is running out of space, and we are running out of time. In March 2001 New York closed for good its land garbage dump – it turns out it was full. This is, or is to become the reality in many places in the world.

As a society we produce more garbage than we are capable of processing. Just as an example, New York produces over 11,000 tons of garbage every day. But, just how much is this? Well, it takes the city of New York a military-style operation on a daily basis to transport the garbage some 300 miles away on 550 rigs (huge trucks). Yeah… but is this really a lot? Well, you can see it this way; these tractor trailers will form a convoy nearly nine miles long, impeding traffic, polluting the air, and raising carbon emissions which in itself generated a whole lot of additional damage to the environment. And this in only one city!

But the challenge goes well beyond how to dispose garbage; it actually is a lot more about how to treat the causes, and reduce the amount of garbage we as individuals generate; it’s about what each of us can do on daily basis; it’s about the choices we make and how they impact the place we live in, for example choosing convenient disposable plates, utensil, napkins, buying gold wedding rings for your future spouse or choosing to follow fashion or the latest trends.

The challenge we now face is to replace the throw-away economy with a, reduce, reuse and recycle economy. Just to exemplify this, whole economies can develop around reutilizing intelligently waste disposal, positively impacting the environment, and the lives of those involved. In Brazil, where unemployment is high, the recycling of aluminum beverage cans has become a major source of employment. The system that has evolved in Brazil for recycling aluminum cans now employs more people than the automotive industry does.

It’s very difficult to understand the difference we each can make. You either contribute or you contaminate. Through the development of this story and its revealing pictures, I hope to increase awareness and share a unique perspective of this challenge. I hope to shed some light on the unconscious choices and on the new habits we can develop to contribute to a better place to live in.

Source: 2002 Earth Policy Institute (

Note. This is a photo story project that I intend to develop over time. Any suggestions, visual or conceptual ideas, references or links are welcomed.