I have reached 34 years of age. As a documentary journalist, I have a very obsessive nature: when I get into a subject, I dive deep into it. For the past 4 years, plastic is a pressing topic in my mind. I confess that I am not really sure how it got there, since I consider myself to be one of those skeptics, kind of boring and pragmatic people. I am not exactly the definition of an eco-boring person - nor an eco-nice one. But I couldn't help it, the obsession grew and the ideas kept coming to me. I can't even recall the order of how things happened, but after I started obsessing about the presence of plastic in our daily lives, I went through the many stages of my obsessions: rampant observation, individualized guilt, humanitarian disbelief, insoluble despair, impossible and unbelievable perspectives, humor as an escape valve, obsessive research, systematization of possible solutions, creation of many ideas to expose the theme, writing angry texts, writing calmer texts, taking photographs and the final one, which was the despair of having to organize of all of these materials.
This is an authorial, self-deprecating, ironic, sarcastic, obsessive and unpretentious project. It is not a project inspired by the “idle Pandemic Covid-19 time” - in fact, the pandemic actually hindered my plans. I have been documenting the topics of plastic and our disposable way of living for the past 4 years. I started out by photographing the plastics that were in front of me, in my daily life. This made me open my eyes to the amount of plastic that was daily under my responsibility. I decided that I was going to “sign” all the plastic I consumed, and see myself as responsible for those materials ) used. I then went through the phase in which I would watch garbage collectors collecting giant bags of trash and photograph overcrowded trash cans on the streets; as well as the period when I was obsessed with dog poop being collected with plastic bags, taking something that can naturally decompose and immortalizing it in small bubbles of plastic. Then, by using a drone, I evolved my documentary work to address the Pinheiros River, where I was able to observe the impact of our lifestyle in my city's water. The images had an abstract aesthetic that, although interesting, was not enough to tame my incomprehension. But I didn't want to solely talk about plastic in rivers and oceans, on a scale that is wide and distant from our lives.
Reflecting about this, I decided to create a spreadsheet and calculate how much plastic I have used in my life thus far - how many cups, brushes, shampoos, detergents, bottles, straws, candy plastic bags and so on... I looked at the numbers and found them to be almost unbelievable. In an attempt to better understand what those numbers meant, I decided to collect just as much plastic from cooperatives, so I could see the amount of space they would occupy in my house if they had not been "discarded". Thus, with the help of trash pickers, I managed to collect a big part of this material. I then organized mini installations in my house, with the purpose of raising reflections, information and provocations about our disposable lifestyle.
This is an opportunity to make fun of my own curious and obsessive personality. I was moved mainly by my unsettledness, as in most of my other personal journeys. The themes of plastic and garbage have always been present in my work, from poverty to luxury, and have taken over an important part of my mind. I do not consider myself an activist, but rather a person who is uncomfortable and concerned with what is happening in the world due to our disposable way of living. As it took me a long time to launch the project and my birthday was approaching, I found the perfect hook: the celebration of my 34th year of a disposable life.
The photos were taken without major productions or aesthetic appeals. I carried out the rehearsals at home or at the trash pickers' cooperative, always photographing on my own, without much production and accepting the random ways the materials were distributed on the scenery. My experience is mostly in documentary photography, so in general I am not fond of intervening in the photographed scene. For this work, I did not intervene in the light. And I am also not worried with the output so far, given that these photographs will also be disposable.
As deliverables for this project, my intention is to hold an exhibition, an installation and group discussions that should include the polluting companies in them. My plan in early 2020 was to travel and document this and other topics related to our consumption. The Pandemic changed my plans and I decided to launch the photographs and content on this website.
The initial numbers I came up with for the first photos were:
(the calculations were based on VERY conservative estimates)
+8,160 PET bottles (mostly Coca-Cola)
+410 Toothpaste tubes
+ 820 Shampoo bottles
+410 dishwashing sponges
+410 detergent bottles
+6,528 Styrofoam trays for cold cuts
+6,528 plastic cups
+2,040 plastic plates
+3,264 plastic straws
+24,480 little plastic bags, those you can find everywhere (in the packaging of sweets, candies, cutlery, new products and so on)
Items I have not taken into account, but have been on my mind:
- Garbage bags of different sizes. A quick calculation of 1 tash bag per week would mean over 1650 bags
- Grocery bags. I always conducted small market purchases. It could easily add to this math one or more bags per day, generating around 18,360 bags
- If I consumed 2 liters of water a day (as my nutritionist suggests) from “bottled” sources, I would have consumed around 25,000 bottles of water
- Deodorants (so many types and packages, mostly with plastic caps) - and I am not even going to address these products' horrible formulas here.
- The transparent supermarket bags we use to transport fruits and vegetables in the market up to the cashier (who knows why we do this, right?)
- Food packaging, for foods such as rice, beans, pasta, granola and many others. Not only the ones I buy for my cooking, but also the ones that are used to prepare my food in bakeries, restaurants, bars, etc.
- Materials that are not visually identified as plastic, such as clothes with plastic in their composition, cosmetics, car/bicycle parts, paper packaging with plastic, and so on
- Medicines that are wrapped in plastic. They have a short-term use and carry in them elements that need special care for discard
- I honestly even think about the duct tape rings that I have made throughout my life, to stick up posters, attach things, etc... Where are they?
QUESTIONS (and more complex answers soon to come):
IS IT NOT DISPOSABLE?
It is not... What is disposable, anyway? When we throw out a plastic material, what do we expect will happen to it? It does not disappear from the world. Plastic waste, when it is not ingested by an animal, it breaks down into contaminated micro pieces and remains, as far as we know, FOREVER in the environment. Did you know that all the plastic ever produced in the world since its invention is still somewhere on the planet? Except for an estimate of 5-7% of the material that was incinerated and turned into gas, the rest is out there. Actually, this is the information that motivated me to go after the waste I produce.
Do you know who said plastic is disposable? The plastic industry.
IS IT NOT RECYCLABLE?
First of all, some materials have the potential to be recycled, however, this does not mean they will actually be recycled. Some types of plastics can go through "a new cycle" of existence, but most of them need very specific conditions for that, which means that, in reality, they don't actually get recycled. Also, when they do manage to be recycled, they lose some of its characteristics in this "second life" and cannot be recycled again. Even when a PET bottle is transformed into a fiber that is transformed into a "sustainable" T-shirt, the plastic in it cannot be recycled into a third cycle. Furthermore, the plastic in this T-shirt is pretty much invisible, which decreases its chances of being correctly discarded.
Do you know who said plastic is recyclable? The plastic industry.
IS IT NOT CHEAP?
It is not cheap. The main point here is that plastic is a material that has not gone through any accountability in terms of its externalities (the damages it causes). Plastic is petroleum. It is a material with little value, frequently used due to the scalability of its production. It is an incredible material, but using it demands greater care in terms of its disposal, and demands that we reconsider that is the value attributed to the finite raw materials that we extract from the planet.
THROWING OUT IS NOT AN OPTION?
Throwing out does not exist. Plastic does not disappear once we remove it from our sight. Even when one country’s garbage is sold to be discarded in another (yes, this happens all the time), when it is thrown into the ocean (yes, this happens all the time) or when it is buried or gathered in landfills or dumps, plastic remains in our planet. And honestly, sending trash to space is a very controversial idea...
We may not see it, but all the plastic we use keeps polluting, contaminating and killing the living creatures of the planet we inhabit.
O que é fora, quando jogamos algo fora? A sensação de estarmos olhando o planeta anos-luz de distância, como se nossas atitudes não o impactassem. A imagem que parece de satélite, da terra com sua curvatura, é na verdade o reflexo do nosso modo de vida no Rio Pinheiros.
Essa é uma série na qual estou trabalhando na tentativa de nos aproximar do tema para gerar mudança de comportamento.