Art Seen

One Guy Saved His Trash For Four Years To Make A Powerful Point About Waste

Next time you think about not recycling, remember this.

If you were to keep all your recyclable trash instead of throwing it away, how large do you think the pile of waste would be? Self-taught photographer Antoine Repessé has a pretty good idea because that's exactly what he decided to do. In 2011, with the help of family and friends, the 37-year-old started saving all of his recyclable trash. This included plastic, metal, glass, and paper products such as soup cans, newspapers, toilet paper rolls, water bottles, and cigarette boxes. 


He stored all of the waste products in his two-story home. He filled up plastic bags and ended up with trash piled high against the walls. "I got really involved in this project. Physically because I lived with [the waste] for four years and intellectually because it represents a big contemporary issue," Repessé told A Plus in an email. 

He was inspired to start the collecting his recyclable waste because of his poor cooking skills. He often purchased frozen foods he could easily heat up instead of cooking up something on his own. One day, he started thinking about how much excessive packaging is used for these items — and their environmental impact. 

By 2015, Repessé decided it was time to transform the trash into a meaningful piece of artwork he could share to raise awareness about waste and environmental issues. In his photography series 365 Unpacked, he showcases all the saved up trash in eye-opening scenes which include 1,600 milk bottles, 4,800 toilet rolls, and about 1,750 pounds of newspaper. He sorted each package separately by material and the room they're most often used in. 

The photos make a powerful point about how much waste we create. While we may often hear numbers associated with the trash we produce, picturing it inside of someone's dining room, kitchen, or car may just have more impact. 

After he finished the photo series, Repessé made sure the materials could go to good use. He gave some of the material to an artist who needed it for a project, donated the soda cans to an association dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of waste reduction, and sent the rest to recycling companies. "It was important to me to make sure that all I used would be recycled or reused," he said. 

You can check out some of the photos from 365 Unpacked below. 

Every year, 17 billion toilet-roll tubes are thrown away.

Courtesy of Antoine Repessé

Every minute, 1 million plastic bottles are purchased around the world. By 2021, that number will increase by 20 percent.

Courtesy of Antoine Repessé

Every year, the average American uses seven trees and 680 pounds of paper.

Courtesy of Antoine Repessé

Cigarette boxes are often made from paperboard, which can be easily recycled. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable, yet many people litter them on shorelines, sidewalks, and in parks. It's estimated that 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts end up as toxic trash each year.

Courtesy of Antoine Repessé

Plastic that ends up in a landfill will take anywhere from 100 to 400 years to break down.

Courtesy of Antoine Repessé

By recycling one ton of paper, 17 trees, 6,953 gallons of water, and 463 gallons of oil would be saved.

Courtesy of Antoine Repessé

Recycling just one plastic bottle saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for four hours. In addition, it causes 20 percent less air pollution and 50 percent less water pollution than making a new bottle would.

Courtesy of Antoine Repessé

We can make a difference, but it starts with examining our waste and working to reduce it. Buy less, recycle more, and find creative ways to reuse.

Courtesy of Antoine Repessé


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