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Inspired by “Trashed” – the movie

After watching Jeremy Iron’s documentary film “Trashed” in January, I felt pretty doom and gloom about how the planet is faring. It’s a good film to watch in that it really does uncover the gritty truth about the worlds overwhelming waste production and our non-environmentally friendly means of disposing of this ever-increasing problem. Its not just the trash filling up our land, water supplies and oceans, but the toxic pollutants in the trash and the toxic materials the trash is made of, that are negatively impacting our planet in a big way.

There are things we can do to minimize our waste of course. I was  inspired by a woman on the documentary who states that her 3-person family produce just one small plastic bag of non-recyclable waste per annum! Motivated, I decided that I would attempt to do the same with my even smaller 2 person and 1 cat household.  It should not prove too difficult to achieve this trash minimisation in Munich, where I am now based. Our apartment building has separate recycle bins for paper and biodegradable food stuffs and our neighbourhood recycle station has bins for green, clear and brown glass, plastic and cans. There is a more comprehensive recycle station a short drive from here where there are massive collection bins for electronics, electronic cables, clothing and a variety of other things. You do have to put in a small amount of time to take the stuff there and dispose of each item in the correct department but we have been once before and I enjoyed the experience. It heightened my awareness of the trash problem whilst at the same time imparting a more positive feeling –a sense of community working together, each person doing their bit to reduce waste.

Well its now early March and I am currently in Sydney but I did regrettably need to dispose of one of those small plastic bags of non-recyclable trash on February the 23rd before I left. Certainly way off the 1 bag a year benchmark but better than usual. I mean hey, thats just one small bag in almost 2 months! The main culpric was tissues and paper towels. Yes those fine, bleached slivers of tree we use for so many things and then rapidly  trash afterwards. Of course paper does biodegrade but it still amounts to extra plastic bags of trash and with such vast quantities of paper being used, well it could take a very long time before it finally reaches the biodegrading section at the dump. My small plastic bag of trash was around 85% paper towels and tissues! Do we need to use so very much of it for wiping, snotting, sneezing and drying? Perhaps its time to go back to the old practice of using washable hankies, napkins, tea towels and rags? ( … a tad reminiscent of the disposable nappy debate I know).

In any case whilst I personally have resolved to go handkerchief shopping next week. (Although am wondering just how tricky it may be to find hankies in the shops these days). Time to embrace the snotty cloth and reduce trash!. Hum..I imagine it will be difficult to persuade others to join this crusade…

Thinking more about trash, I am reminded of one of Christian’s recent mantra, that “there is too much stuff in the world” and I am in agreement. Unfortunately this does put me in a bit of a conundrum, as I am the maker of “stuff”. Of course you can argue that its not just “stuff”, that art has cultural value and significance, but I am still putting a lot of “stuff” into the world and its not exactly biodegradable – ceramics stick around for thousands of years and I use perspex instead of glass for framing my works on paper. (It’s lighter and safer for transportation but doesn’t break down like glass). Yes I could do better, and sometimes I even think I should stop making art altogether yet I feel compelled to create things – tangible objects. Its my means of communicating, expressing what I cant express in words, its who I am.

On the flip side I also sometimes use found objects in my sculptures and I keep my broken ceramics so that I can use them to create new mixed media works. Whilst I don’t use recyclable paper, the paper I use is of course recyclable. (I don’t use oil based paints or toxic products in my work). In the future I may work more with video or performance – they don’t necessarily require the creation of material stuff… but the problem is my new found love of ceramics… For now I just hope that my artworks are kept, cared for and passed on through generations and at best that they truly will become valuable cultural assets…argh but its still stuff..

And today I was in the studio making more of it….

Enough said,

Here’s a link to the film website

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