Rubbish – where are resources going?


Christmas is finished for another year. Did you get the presents you wanted or needed? What happened to the boxes, wrapping paper, unwanted presents, and surplus food? Did it get thrown in the bin, re-used or recycled? I asked these questions, because my eyes were opened by this film – Wasteland.

It made me think. These were the questions I posed myself. What is work? Is art a sustainable industry?

This art work turns on its head the traditional view of an artist producing a piece of art for others. Instead it is a collaboration with recycling workers, an artist who uses photography and an art dealer. This to me truly illustrates the way industries should work in a collaborative manner.

In these times, each industry has to review its supply chains and ensure it is being fair and ethical. I believe Vik Muniz and the recycling workers show how it can been done in the art industry and the rubbish industry. It shone a light on something that was done in the shadows. People, like the woman in the picture opposite, hid away and were ashamed of talking about their work. But the film seemed to find a way to help these workers overcome their shame and be proud of being a catadore. One woman states at the end she is happy in her work and her life. Is this not what we all want?

Vik Muniz took a huge step for his industry by including the recycling workers in his production of the art. In addition, they were involved in the sale of the art in a London auction house. The money made from the picture was given to the association for recycling workers. The money helped to provide a community library, and other needs of the workers. In addition, it challenges the viewer of the art. Is the picture beautiful? I think Vik Muniz can teach other areas of industry, as he is taking a sustainable approach to art.

What about another industry – holidays? This has changed at the start of the 21st Century, with a wide range of choice. The spectrum goes from camping to boutique hotels who want to provide an individual service. What about the all-inclusive high rise hotels that occupy the majority of the world’s stunning natural beaches. Is this a sustainable model for the 21st Century?

From the outside, the model appears to operate on cheap flights, low cost labour, low cost food and low cost alcohol. It is then package and sold to holiday makers, as pay for everything up front ensuring you only spend the money that has been saved. Is this true? Once you arrive in a high-rise hotel you are a captivated consumer. This allows the hotel to profit maximised through including and excluding items that are available within this confined market. For example, in one hotel you could buy a short period of time in a massage chair for a few euros or get a personal masseuse for 45 euros for half an hour. The consumer gets choice at a cost. Does the consumer think about what is included in that cost?

Do you think about the carbon footprint of your holiday before purchasing? Is it a deciding factor? I don’t think so. We are still price sensitive and if we can get something cheaper then we normally go for it. The impact on the environment is not a factor. What will be the tipping point for this industry in terms of the sustainability argument? How will the holiday industry continue to sell us the dream of happiness?

My challenge to us all for 2014 is to have more laughter than tears in our home. If you are lucky enough to have a paid job then hopefully you are paid fairly. If you are responsible for purchasing goods and services are you paying a fair price? In the words of Porritt, we need ‘to ensure that ‘optimality’ is redefined in order to encompass those fundamental social and environmental concerns.’ This is taken from his chapter on wants and needs, in the book – Capitalism, as if the world matters.

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