In the summer of 2018 I travelled through the West Coast of America with my boyfriend. It was a beautiful trip and we stayed at our friends’ and families homes, which was great, but what struck me was the amount of single-use plastic people were consuming. By drinking water from single-use plastic bottles or getting a lot of single-use takeout food containers. While I was judging them, I questioned myself: Am I doing it any better at home?

I like to call myself a conscious human being, but when I collected my single-use plastic waste of four weeks the results were shocking. I ended up with 60 litres of trash, which is 720 litres a year produced by two people living together.

Plastic waste 2018

In my single-use-plastic collection were 114 pieces of plastic divided into 8 categories. The biggest category was ‘Dinner’ followed by ‘Veggies and fruit’ and ‘Breakfast’. It was obvious that most of our plastic came from the kitchen as packaging material for our food.

Surely, I had to make some changes. A year later, in 2019, I repeated this project. I collected my single-use-plastic, but this year I ended up with only 5 liters of waste.

Plastic waste 2019

My single-use-plastic collection went form 114 pieces of plastic to 18 pieces in just a year. The biggest categorie this time being the bathroom. I started sporting but it is very frustrating with glasses on so occasionally I wear contact lenses that leaves me with plastic packaging waste.

This project is an ongoing investigation into the waste we create. By acknowledging how much trash we produce, where it travels and what pollution that results in, we realise the contribution we all make on global warming.

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
– Anne Marie Bonneau

What is in the trash? - Data Design by Dora Varga from Dora Varga on Vimeo.

After analysing my own waste I wanted to take this project on the next level. Therefore, I had analysed the waste that has been created in three days on the ground floor in Blaak building at Willem de Kooning Academy. By separating the trash I could physically visualise the data and see, how many litres of the trash was recyclable, compostable or is solid waste.

In the three days I collected 720 liters of waste. Only 10% was compostable. Which is a very good sign that shows that the students don’t produce a lot of food waste.

70% of the trash could be recycled. Think of paper, plastic, glass or cans. That is 504 liters of materials that could be re-used or recycled for something else, even within school for an art project.

19% was solid waste. Things such as drinking cups, no they are not recyclable because of the plastic layer on the inside.

1% is unknown. This one precent were copper wires, USB stick and headphones.