We perpetually produce trash. Our continuous generation of waste forms a continual challenge where things are created, used, and then discarded. How does one dispel of waste at end of each day? Where do we put all that we use? What part of nature should we claim for to banish it to for all of time?
Trash collection, isolation, and storage are central issues that plagues us all, whether we realize it or not. In some countries, generally referred to as "developed" countries, maintaining clean streets and cities devoid of visible trash has become commonplace. Such apparent cleanliness blinds us to the ramifications of our actions because we are saved from having to see the result of where our trash ends up.
From tiny towns to booming metropolises, everyone produces trash. When these places develop the privilege of automatic trash collection, a luxury is provided. We neatly collect our waste into plastic bags, tie the top, and place it in a plastic trash can that is pulled to the curbside once a week. Our responsibility ends here at the curb.
But in regions of the world where such infrastructures are obsolete, the result can be the free distribution of trash across the land. In places where trashcans are sparse and devoid of lids it presents a challenge to keep waste in a single location. Plastic bags to contain the trash cost money, money that will instead go to feeding hungry mouths. Places where income might be $5 a month doesn’t allot for such luxuries as trash bags. Trashcan lids blow away, dogs steal what they must from the open barrels, and each person is left with the responsibility to drive at least 10 km (in some remote towns) to a local disposal site.
Where humans live, trash resides. Trash becomes the landscape; plastic bushes and aluminum sand comprise the local flora and fauna. Not only does our waste decorate the regional vegetation but it makes its way with ease into the water systems. Where the wind blows it carries our low-density polystyrene cups and saranwrap byproducts – just hopefully to parts of the world where we don’t have to see it.
The trash that we see in every place around us morphs based on the region. In remote places, such as in the images above, large pieces of debris have been discarded or blown out of the landfills where their presence is easy to see. Contrastingly in areas that are 'touristy', evidence of human manufactured items remains prevalent, but is masked by the sheer size - or lack thereof - and becomes seemingly invisible.
While what we see around us might seem overwhelming, we can begin to see the redirection needed from the ground up. We need to learn how our current infrastructures work and why they exist in the ways that they do. Maybe then we can learn how to rework or entirely redesign products and their disposal therein so that we can open our eyes and be proud to look around our world and see what we have restored.
For a full gallery of images that collected throughout the Americas, see my Gallery of Trash.