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Photographer Chris Jordan describes the photos in his series “Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption” as his “first foray into being an engaged artist.”

Photo EssayRecycling


About The Author

Julie Schwietert

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan.

  • tom gates

    I am completely blown away by pictures like these. how anyone can watch Wall-E and not think that it’s coming…well, they’re like the people in Wall-E who don’t see it coming.

    • Matt

      Have you ever looked at figures for how much land mass our garbage actually takes up?

      We could maintain our current annual waste production for another 300 years and not have any issues at all with regards to storage space. Landfills are not even close to being a real environmental issue. Air and water pollution are far, far more urgent and serious considerations.

      Litter is ugly, sure. But it is not the problem. Wall-E was being metaphorical. Do some research and confirm what I’ve said, if you’d like.

    • Maven

      Psst. “Wall-E” is a cartoon. But it doesn’t surprise me that some of you people think it was a documentary.

    • JCadle

      FACT, A 17 cubic mile junkyard could hold all of America’s garbage and junk produced for the next 1000 years.

      Its just popular to jump on the environmental band wagon.

      C’mon sheeple

  • Tim Patterson

    Incredible photos. Keep up the great work, Chris.

  • Lola

    Absolutely incredible indeed!

  • valley


  • Carlo

    Really helps to put things into perspective when we can see images like this. Great work!

  • Hal

    Amazing. Almost makes me feel better about our waste issues that you could create something so incredible out of it…


  • Ryan Van Lenning

    Thanks Chris for this great work, making the ‘hidden” strikingly visible! I thought it interesting your comment about places not really wanting to give you access, for fear of exposure of this phenomenon. You’re doing what is so important in any pressing cultural issue: “putting a face” on it and reflecting it back. The rest is up to us.

  • Michelle

    These are great, but frightening.

  • Paul Sullivan

    Killer photo essay. A fascinating subject recorded creatively and elegantly. Great work Chris!

  • Rose Schwietert

    Wow! We take stuff to recycling centers and think we’re done. We don’t question where it goes from there. The real decision is do I really need to buy this?

  • david miller

    pretty insane how this stuff collects. that’s one of the basic lessons left out of modern day disposable society–everything comes from somewhere and ends up somewhere.

  • Alan

    Kind of shocking when it’s put in front of you. Thanks for the amazing photos.

  • Turner

    Frightening is the right word, but thank you for depicting it so well.

  • Marissa

    Wow, those images are incredible and a tad disturbing.

  • Brett

    Wow, the Bullet Casings pic from 2005 is crazy. Although sad, it’s a neat picture.

  • minddestroyer

    Just another brick in the wall…

  • Grampa No Op

    Great photos. Once upon a time, I grew up in a small town that had a ‘self serve’ dump for its residents. Seeing the actual disposal process first hand allowed me to understand right from the start that garbage never goes away, it just gets dumped somewhere and covered/burned. Obviously something is going to have to change with our consumption habits, whether its our choice (voluntary), or gets forced on us (environmental meltdown) remains to be seen.

  • John Doe

    Looks more like *human* mass consumption.

  • joshywashington

    everybody and everybody should see these images. Look in a mirror 1st world, and see what we have become!

  • Nicolas

    The last picture looks like a star wars model for a 1970′s movie.

  • Dark Daddy

    Wow… crazy pictures… terrible consumption as depicted at a recycling plant. I am shocked (not)! Trollers…

  • Quack

    It looks like the last picture is actually of hard drives, not circuit boards.

  • john

    Awesome!!! That’s living baby!…how far we have come as Americans…from the great depression to all-you-can-eat consumption!…yeah go capitalism!!!

  • plaidy

    From the looks of the piles of everything it seemed that all of this stuff was ready for recycling. I’d much rather see a pile circuit boards ready to be dealt with than a mass of detritus. Kind of the anti Wall-E pile if you ask me

  • Jason

    We need more programs to ensure these items are reused somehow.

  • PJ

    While I applaud the artist for his work, and do not wish to demean or decry it in any way, I have to steer fans towards what has certainly been a point of inspiration for these photos. Though this style of image and subject matter may be a first for Mr. Jordan, he’s not the first artist to draw my attention to these sorts of startling realities.

    Canadian Photographer Edward Burtynsky has been shooting this stuff for decades. His work culminated in the brilliantly stoic, stark, and beautiful film; Manufactured Landscapes.

    I highly suggest anyone who was at all moved by these photos to go out and rent Edward’s film. It’s a gorgeous, jaw dropping, and humbling experience that will make the photo set featured here pale in comparison.

    I also suggest that if Chris’ or Edward’s work every comes to an art gallery near you, you MUST go and see the images in person. I was lucky enough to have seen large scale prints of Edward’s work years ago and it was life changing. Viewing images like these on a screen can’t really give you a true sense for the vastness and scale of man’s wasteful habits. They need to be printed, and blown up!

    Great stuff!

  • Spanish clsses

    That is disgusting.

  • Ryan B

    Hopefully since they are just letting these products “pile up”, they are planning on re-using what they can. Or else all of this stuff would be in a dump or at sea by now.

  • canelo

    They are extremely similar to the French sculptor Arman Fernandez – boxes -only in other media. Good Works. Congratulations

  • WonderingWanderer

    Incredible pictures. Great work on getting this collection out there.

  • Cheap

    Why do they say American? We are not the only country that uses cell phones and cars

  • The Mayor

    Man, Americans consume stuff. Who woulda thought.

    I wish we were African poor and had nothing.

    Good work.

  • ryan nelson

    i have been to the scrap yards in tacoma that are depicted. the metal is shipped to china and japan, but at least this junk is being recycled and not landfilled.

  • Jonathan

    For a different perspective…The fact that every photo was of a huge amount of the SAME item indicates that these are all things which aren’t going directly into landfills, they’re being sorted and collected, and presumably they’ll be recycled some way or another.

  • George Michael

    Where is this store located? Looks like better quality than walmart!

  • Rachel Hardy

    wow. absolutely disgusting and beautiful. very intriguing. i want to see more, but i shouldn’t, right?

  • julie

    I think it’s interesting that we’re all leaving these comments with the aide of a computer or smart phone device that will end up in one of the landfills presented here. We all like to coo and ah the images but are not willing to stop what is being portrayed. (myself included)

  • Christine

    Every time we buy a new computer, phone, or other gadget; every time we sign up for new phone/internet service and get more wires; every time we try new products that “don’t work” and sit in the back of our medicine cabinets until we move out of a place…and there are just more and more products every year.

    Makes you want to live like a monk to no longer be a part of the problem.

  • Alexander

    Why are the hard drives stacked?

  • Nick

    Guys, it’s a big planet. We’ve got more than enough space to store our outmoded technology. Honestly, if you’re really so disturbed by these images, why don’t you trade your current Blackberry for one of those lunchbox cellphones from the 90s.

  • ryan nelson

    you didn’t post a single comment about how this stuff is recycled into new stuff, and your not making a difference by saying “wow, i never realized how my consumerism looks so pretty”

  • Sherry Ott

    Makes me want to eat a big mac and supersize it…:)
    Nice photo documentary!

  • Digg Hivemind

    Mass consumption is what you get when you have….masses of people!
    This is what happens when you get masses of anything – for example masses of geese yields masses of goose poop.

    Everything will be recycled. They are not sorting out this stuff for the fun of it, they’re getting ready to process it. And it’s like this all over the world,

    The cars, the oil filters, the cartridge cases, the hard drives. Even the circuit boards are stripped of recoverable metals like gold, copper, platnuim,steel,etc.

  • Mike

    Makes you wonder where all the other countries put their garbage? They probably don’t have the same environmental regulations that we have. Feels like I should be made to feel bad for being an American. I feel like, because all these things are seperated, these piles are going to be recycled. I think we’ll be throwing that same stuff away. I think that’s a good thing.

  • Ehsan

    Very, very nice photos. Makes me sad, but I can’t help but think how I want to get rid of my lame cell phone and get a smartphone.

  • Carl

    Humans are the only creature on the planet that leave waste that is not consumed by something lower in the food chain.
    Great shots, need to be reminded not to be so wasteful!

  • John

    I really like how #7 kind of looks like an overhead view of a city/town. I feel like it’s very symbolic, intentional or not, still very good.

  • John

    Why are these pictures “frightening”, or “disturbing”? These photos are a testament to the achievement of man, to the desire to create and innovate. I look at these photos and say, “amazing” in a good way.

    Not to mention, all these photos are of recycled products, that frankly, would be cheaper to just throw in a big hole in the ground. So for environmentalists, these photos should show how the green movement has succeeded in many respects.

    Also, the photographer should take photos from further away, because it just seems like he is taking closeups of a small group of things. Was there anything beyond the frames?

  • RvdH

    I’m glad the European Union decided that cell phone companies need to fix one type of charger that works on all cell phones. It will at least save one of the amazing photos above.

  • ecoTwollar

    It makes me think the other side of the problem. How disarming it is to make one feel guilty for something they didn’t personally cause. Metropolitan living is pretty dense compared to the sparse living in the suburbs. Still, if you could see through walls and take it in in one view, you would see heaps more junk laying about in our sheds and closets and still not making look that awful. Yet THAT junk is very likely never going to be recycled…Amaxing photos indeed…

  • Huggy Muggy

    I’m not sure where the shock value is supposed to be or why people freak out seeing this garbage. A lot of the garbage seen on those photos will be recycled and reused. Because, you know, recycling works. The photographer says it himself “…this stuff is usually invisible…” – yes, because it is NOWHERE AS DRAMATIC as those pictures try to make you believe. Look at the picture of the circuit boards, for instance – the actual covered area is no bigger than a a square meter (if you look at the size of one board, you can figure it out). So, I would say this is just some ultra-leftist propaganda trying to dramatize a problem that doesn’t exist, really, by playing the always-working outrage card. You people are not doing yourselves a favor by repeating the phrase “the whole world should see this” over and over again. Take a look at the facts because judging from some pretty, cleverly taken photos doesn’t make you appear, erm, intelligent. I am not interested in defending mass consumption, but these pictures are just well made propaganda which an adult should be able to spot.

  • Vanessa Paxton

    Wow, that’s really something. It really is disgusting what we’re doing to the earth. Thank you for enlightening us with these images.

  • Paul [PhotoFun Studio]

    Staggering! Creating art from the waste we leave in our wake is the only redeeming thing to do, although not generating so much waste would be better. Great images, thanks.

  • Milton

    Awesome photos! Just think how much happiness and productivity those products brought to people. The cars taking people wherever they want to go, the cell phones allowing people to make emergency calls or make calls wherever and whenever they want, the circuit boards allowing scientists to make discoveries. Just shows how productive we are as a nation! Whatta place!

  • Marvin

    Remarkable and provocative images – As a fellow photographer I recognize both the artistic quality and social commentary of the work. Congratulations, bravo and well done.

  • Eclipse

    Is this supposed to bother me?

  • jason

    yes, and what would you like us to do. Keep our 40MB(1988) hard drives instead of buying a new 2TB(2009) hard drive that holds 50 thousand times more data in the same amount of space.

  • KV

    Pictures = Amazing, great photography
    Social Commentary = Totally misplaced

    As others have said, the fact that these piles are even separated and not left in a mass landfill means that they are going to be RECYCLED. The commentary attached to these photos doesn’t seem to match the subject. If it had been pictures of these things strewn across roads, forests, oceans, etc. the commentary would have totally matched, but these are actually pictures of the RIGHT way to manage and recycle the waste of accelerated technological progress. I’m INCREDIBLY GLAD piles like these exist because it means that we’re at least trying to be responsible about how we manage our waste.

    If you don’t want the waste from 300 million people just left where it falls or collected into central places and recycled, where DO you want it???

    • Julie Schwietert


      As the photographer says, the items (which yes, are sorted to be recycled) are a reflection of the tendency toward mass consumption– overconsumption. The fact that the items will ultimately be recycled doesn’t make the phenomenon of mass consumption any less worrisome or problematic.

      Further, if you look at where many of these “recycled” items end up, you’ll find that they’re not so environmentally friendly. Check out our article on e-waste to get an idea about what happens when these items are sent on to other countries.

      • Huggy Muggy

        Well look at your lung on a scan after 20 years of smoking. That will also be a pretty picture with a lot of shock value, but, as mass consumption produces lots of garbage, whoever is shocked when seeing either of those two pictures can’t be a bright person. Do you people need to see a picture of the earth to believe it’s a sphere?

        I am baffled by stupidness of environmentalists. makes me want to dump a few batteries into a lake.

        • Alex S

          Why in the world would you trash your environment to spite environmentalists? That seems pretty stupid to me.

          Is the issue really about who is a bright person? You are discussing the intelligence of the people being affected by these photos? I think the issue is more about the fact that America is a land of over consumption. The pictures are to bring that fact into people’s hearts. Not to tell them what they don’t already know. People are not stupid for reacting to these pictures. That is the purpose of the pictures. Also, they are entitled to react in their own way.

  • Agustin

    Realmente…. una belleza, la imaginacion demostrada para hacer cosas bellas de lo que descartamos nos hace pensar en que tendiamos que cambiar un poco nustros conceptos de vida. No es asi??

  • Steve

    Love your bio. “Writer”, “English”, “Women’s Studies”, “Social Work”. In other words, you *produce* absolutely NOTHING, and therefore feel some psychological need to justify that fact by belittling those who do actually produce something tangible and meaningful with their lives. While your photos are pretty, they don’t actually make any kind of point, except what I explained above.

    • Julie Schwietert

      Um, Steve– they’re not my photos. Not sure what your grudge is or why you feel that either the photographer or myself are belittling anyone. The issue seems to be yours– and the Internet isn’t really the best or appropriate place to vent that. A therapist might be more useful.

    • Marissa

      You’re absolutely entitled to disagree with what you interpret the point of this piece to be, but I think you were just waaaaay more belittling with that comment than the author who I’m pretty sure didn’t mean to belittle anyone.

  • Eric

    All funded by personal debt. Less debt cmeans less consumption.

  • Amanda is a traveling photographer

    I’m sure this is a redundant comment, but I LOVE these pictures.

  • Starr

    it’s not about there being this much stuff being thrown away and polluting the earth or something — it’s about there being this much stuff to begin with! that many cell phones that were made and then discarded and replaced with new ones, etc, etc. it’s about overconsumption, not about littering.

  • Leonard

    This is visual evidence of the hyper-consumption that has sky-rocketed over the last 30 years. It is global, unprecedented and should be mind boggling. However, we are living right in the middle of this advertising driven, all consuming, shop till you drop mania. No one is shocked because we don’t know anything else. It appears normal.

    Our levels of over-consumption pollute the oceans, the land and the air. Our children get sick from it. Human cultures are being destroyed by a one world, one Walmart way of thinking. Species are dying at a rate that compares to the mass extinction caused by comet impact. The entire planet’s climate is altered by it. Yet, no one is shocked or is moved to change.

    We are done.

  • Anna

    Thanks for putting this together Julie! Jordan’s work is definitely though provoking — forcing us to take a close look at the real impact of our everyday lifestyles. We just did an interview with him over at Wend:

  • S. John

    I am sorry, but you are wrong. Particularly the circuit boards, oil filters, which are very hard and expensive to recycle. Most of our garbage WILL end up in a land fill. Please google “the story of stuff” and watch the short documentary. Wake up! The American dream is over!

  • Michelle

    These comments are really interesting. Clearly these photos have touched a nerve with a lot of people.

    I don’t think the photographer or anyone involved are trying to point fingers and incite guilt. Clearly Mr. Jordan owns a camera, and, I’m willing to bet, quite a few other gadgets. I have a laptop, cell phone, camera, mp3 player, etc., and I drink out of plastic bottle occasionally, and once upon a time I owned a car.

    I don’t feel guilty about that. But I think these pictures help put a striking image to the fact that we are increasingly accumulating more stuff in recent decades than ever before. Unprecedented actions lead to unprecedented results.

    No one’s saying we should stop consuming and adapt a monk-like lifestyle. But we can and should start thinking about how we want to handle this new development.

  • Allen Mueller

    These photographs are beautiful. I really like the story behind it. I’ve been to the dumps in Atlanta. I got lost in the compound for 15 minutes driving to a yard waste drop-off. I remember feeling strange when I left.

  • peteRed

    @huggy muggy if this is like you say “ultra-leftist propaganda trying to dramatize a problem that doesn’t exist”, out of what kind of propaganda are you speaking? the ultra-consumerist-buy-a-mobile-every-six-month propaganda?

    why do you think we – the people of the world – have now a global footprint of 1.4, meaning that we consume 1.4 times what the earth can produce in a year? where is the so called recycling?

    “I am not interested in defending mass consumption, but these pictures are just well made propaganda which an adult should be able to spot”

    well, you spotted it! now go back to your individual consumption patterns in a mass society!

  • Angela Corrias

    Amazing photos… yes, although it’s obvious that the photographer made it on purpose to enhance such images to give the impression of the overconsumption, it actually is true that we produce a lot and sometimes unnecessary waste. It’s fair to say that it’s not *entirely* our fault because the system is based on a planned obsolescence that’s becoming really not sustainable by the planet, recycling or not. We might just react to this and try to be less consumers and more “planet-conscious”. Great post, good to see awareness on such common problems.

  • jill b

    It is amazing to me the anti-environmentalists’ comments here. Are people really this angry at people who care about over consumption and waste? Wow!

  • Mike

    “It is amazing to me the anti-environmentalists’ comments here. Are people really this angry at people who care about over consumption and waste? Wow!”

    ——– I think the anger is brought on by the realization that the enemy is US. To have a visual representation of mass consumerism is like uncovering some nasty family secret that we know exists but would rather keep it hidden and not dealt with.

  • Chad

    Here’s a take on the angry comments.

    People who have been working in the trenches in the recycling world may be frustrated with the lack of understanding the ‘rest of us’ seem to exhibit. According to their expert eyes, these separated piles of materials indicate that they are destined for recycling.

    But those in the recycling industry, and those in industries that generate such volumes of materials can’t continue to hide from the sunlight (ie, avoid being photographed as Chris indicates) – and then expect people to have the same level of detailed knowledge that they do about these ‘piles’.

    We are all consumers. We all have upgraded our computers and cell phones. We can all share in an open discussion on the problems and issues in an effort to better understand the unintended consequences of our actions, and how to curb or correct them. The focus should be on creating more effective solutions.

  • bob davis

    These are pictures of what we are doing correctly. All are of recycling efforts. Efforts that should be more accessible to the consumer. Too many times I have found it difficult to properly dispose of items. Too often recyclable items go to the landfill.
    We have hazardous waste collection that refuses hazardous waste. What does the consumer do with it?
    We have towns and cities charging for trash collection. Why do you think we have piles of trash along the roads?
    We must make it easier to dispose of and recycle our waste properly. Perhaps photos of landfills and illegal dumping would be more motivating. Perhaps a recycling tax assessed on every item sold, based on its end of life cost to dispose of.
    Unfortunately these monies always seem to find their way into the “general” fund.


    El futuro de la humanidad pende de nuestro nivel de concienciación en relación a dos temas de vital importancia:

    1. La eficiencia hidrica. Es preciso nos concienciemos de la importancia del agua como agente benefactor para el desarrollo y proteccion del medio ambiente.

    Es preciso detener la contaminacion del agua a base de promover el <> en los nucleos de poblacion.

    Ademas es necesario gestionar debidamente los regimenes pluviales, a base de estanques de tormentas.

    2. La gestión y la tecnologia del reciclaje. Se trata de no seguir esquilmando los recursos del planeta, y de evitar los vertidos incontralados de residuos solidos urbanos, que detrioran el medio ambiente y como consecuencia la salud humana.

  • Benny

    I think the point is – this stuff is all useless to us after so short a time – we view everything we have as disposable. Recycling isn’t magic, people. It can be a dirty process and quite harmful to the environment – plus the factor- where do we put it before it is recycled? Who wants this in THEIR back yard?? We should be supporting of sustainable and reusable long- lasting, fixable things – fix it don’t toss it! And while I think it DOEs exemplify how much we waste – things are intentionally built to fail and die so we can buy new. If you want to hear disgusting know that Virginia’s #1 import is garbage from other states. They are filling their country side, the purple mountains majesty, with trash. Recycling is great! BUT reusing and buying products that LAST and are FIXABLE is BETTER!!!!

  • Alex S

    This is art. That means everyone is entitled to, and should have, their own individual reaction. It hits us all a different way. It is okay for people to think different things than you. They’ve had different experiences than you.

    I feel as if you haven’t been to a landfill. Sure, maybe some of these things are going to be recycled. But do you know how many people recycle as much as they should? Not many. I live in a city of about only 300,000 people. Just one of our landfills is full of more than 6 million tons of trash. Do you know what they have to do when they run out of room there? They have to move to another location. Landfills are not bottomless. They are massive in size and toxic to the environment. If we keep living the way we are living now and make no changes, the planet will slowly but surely be covered in them.

    Huggy Muggy, perhaps you need to look at the facts. Think about taking a tour of your local landfill. Talk to the workers there. They will tell you that more than half of the items in the landfill are recyclable. They will tell you about leachate, methane, and other harmful toxins caused by landfills. They will tell you that even once they cover the trash up and move to another site, that land can never be safely used again. Have you ever heard of the Love Canal or the Valley of the Drums?

    Anyway. Perhaps you recycle, but most people do not. Of course recycling works. Right now it is very costly because not enough people are doing it. It is okay for people to be shocked by these photos, because perhaps that will cause them to recycle or recycle more. What do you have against that? Our mass consumption is a problem. There are ways to fix it. These photos could spur some action.

  • Uncle B

    We are witnessing the last stand of the great hulking American Neanderthal, spawn of 200 years of force feeding by capitalism, corporatism, and now, deserted by his capitalists, corporatists, for cheaper labor in China. He is facing a falling dollar, rising oil prices and his own unsustainable diet of high caloric meats, and is unable to defend himself with a Military bought out by the oil barons and in mercenary service. His dollar, reflecting his worth to the world, falls like a stone in value, he will soon fall into a sad extinction overcome by the rice and veggie burning Asians. They are much smaller in physical stature, and adapt to the new technologies of computer driven electromechanical and hydraulic strengths in use. They are easily and cheaply educated, this year alone they have produced, in China, more post-graduates, with IQ’s of 130+ than the U.S.A has high school students, drop-outs included! India has done the same, and as U.S. schools fall to a rating of 32nd in the world, too! Expect in the next great depression, the demise and extinction of the great hulking American Neanderthal – no bigger bones than his have been found in all antiquity – he will no longer demand with his dollar 80% of the world’s resources, as it is almost fallen to worthlessness as we speak, Gold at over $1000.00 an ounce, oil pushing $80.00 a bbl, his national debt so astounding even his printing machines cannot keep with zero’s and abbreviations are used! He faces the onslaught of Asians on his industries, cities, SEE: His own capitalists, corporatists, have absconded with capital he entrusted them, to the Beijing, Shanghai and Hang Seng stock markets for better ROI, and have converted the money to non-manipulated Yuan, away from his easy to print “funny money”, and he is left alone in his crumbling streets to fight it out with drug lords and street gangs, corrupt officials, bought and sold police forces and the Banksters from Wall street! He will be mired in his own wastes, not even trying to bio-gas sewage, salting fields for ROI in California, his own bread basket, and he is guilty of practicing farming using accountancies equations for ROI and a “damn the future” attitude – the future has become now, the fields, sewage gazes, sewage fertilizers, are gone, and he will grow hungry for this! his health is locked in to a corrupt and rich Medical Cartel, He filled his lakes with pollution, and now, is thirsty, all is coming to a peak, it looks to be in this decade, and he will be reduced! These photos, combined with those of the new American Johannesburg, Detroit City, certainly tell a tale, and not a happy one at all.

  • Huggy Muggy

    I think these photos are nothing than a lackmus test for low intelligence. If you have low intelligence, all you will be able to say is “ohhh this is beautiful, and aweful! So much trash”.

    People who feel frightened by a landfill full of cell phones shouldn’t go tell people who aren’t that they are not seeing the assumed problem, but rather try to on their capability of imagination.

    The real problem is that you environmentalists seem to be unable to imagine how many people live on this world, or even just the US. I may be hard (to an imbecile only, though, imho) to imagine so many people, but if you took a photo of 300 million people it would look very very messy. Now imagine (I know, I know, you can’t) just 2% of these 300 million discarding a cell phone (and the cell phones on the pictures aren’t exactly newer models), and you will understand that there is nothing frightening about a landfill of cell phones.

    When you start to be able to really imagine how many people are 7 billion people are, you will have to agree that the amount of trash these 7 billion people produce isn’t so bad after all. It’s just a few landfills in each country. I think we are doing fine. And no, I am not being ironic.

    The ultimate consequence for the environmentalists, as they think they figured out the solution for mankind to become happy, would be to become fascists and tell everyone how to live their lives.

    In my opinion, 99% of environmentalists are just envious. Envious of people who have more money and are able to buy new stuff, or people who don’t have such a depression that gives them a fit when they think of consuming or buying.

    We’re doing fine. Check the facts. The trash isn’t our problem at all. But, the thread proves it again, left people are prone to be tricked by smoke and mirrors, which ultimately these photos are.

  • Steve

    So quick to condemn ourselves and America. You could go to almost any country in Europe or Asia and reproduce the same pictures. It’s like you feel guilty and want to condemn America.

    BTW Uncle B. Capitalism is not failing here or anywhere. What is failing is forced socialism and communism. Capitalism made America great and lifted the standard of living worldwide. Socialists have destroyed their countries by dragging down their previously thriving economies with socialist regulation and the taxes used to prop up their entitlement programs. Unions (more socialists) have driven up the price of unskilled labor to the point that even union labor won’t buy the overpriced goods produced by union labor.

    During the 70s and 80s, while America was waking up to the pollution we were creating and living, the socialists behind the Iron Curtain continued to pollute and destroy their land. Russia is the most contaminated country on earth. So while the ‘evil’ capitalists were cleaning up their act, the vaunted socialist models all you liberals aspire to turned their back to the damage they were doing.

    Europe is lost….. They will be an Islamic republic under Shari law in 20 years. Don’t even claim that they are an example to follow.

    The answer to all you complain about, pollution, energy independence, health care and everything else is CAPITALISM! Nothing will solve a problem quicker than man with a solution that makes money!

  • needletooth

    “I also felt like I aged about five years during this series. Virtually all the photos…required that I trespass. I’d go ask [for permission to photograph these piles of waste] but I’d get all these vague excuses: Homeland Security, insurance regulations…. I think it was really a weird fear about photography and exposure [even though] I offered veto [power], showed them my previous work, and explained I didn’t name individuals or companies. This was about [documenting] a nationwide, cultural phenomenon.” Circuit boards, Atlanta, 2004″

    so offering veto and all that-didn’t matter? because you would trespass and acquire the shots anyways?? so why bother asking for permission?

  • Baie Li

    I look at those huge masses of items and see possibilities. I wonder with some of those items just how they are recycled, I wonder what the components can be used for. Just what will they be re-made into … and will anyone ever actually know what they were in a previous cycle. Really … most of these goods can be broken down to components, base metals, and the inevitable toxic non-recyclable too.

    Just how much of this … is not actually re-cycled or reused in some way. That for me is the only disturbing part.

    I know that these are mass examples of sorted detritus … but it reminds me of a disturbing example of waste in my own community.

    Where I work we take the time to divide our rubbish/trash according to our local government guidelines into the assorted classes of recycling and general waste. Yet, I watched the collection people come and tip the lot into the same garbage truck. It disturbed and disappointed me. How can we be the change we’d like to be in the world .. when some one else undoes our work?

    Just my two bobs worth and a question.



  • fenderflip

    I agree, capitalism did bring America to “such great heights.” But it was at the expense of most of the rest of the world, if we raised any standards of living, it was from the “trickle down economics” that dripped off our excess.

    Anyway, capitalism is based on a linear growth pattern that can only last so long before it collapses under it’s own weight. It’s time is through.

    My prediction is our future economy is based on resources, not capital. It’s the only way to have an economy that doesn’t eventually pop from inflation. I bet we’ll go back to bartering eventually, hopefully on a global level now instead of just a local level. Plus, non-exhaustible free energy is on the way. Once we have free energy it will be possible for everyone to have the same standard of living.

  • Tammy

    I don’t feel outrage here, I feel gypped. Where is the rest of the information? Sure, the pictures at first glance make the problem look ginormous, insurmountable. But, we’re not getting the whole picture here. Just like those photos circulating the ‘net, showing the supposed “country-sized” amount of garbage dumps floating about our oceans. Only, no one can ever seem to produce an aerial shot of the entire thing. The photos above are possibly cool from an art standpoint, but not from any environmental standpoint. Give us the whole view, give us all of the facts. How much of this is where it is, because it’s being prepared to be recycled? Is it spread in one single layer, or a 30 foot deep pile?

  • C.E

    Wow Huggy Muggy, you sound intelligent. Same with you, Steve.

    “In my opinion, 99% of environmentalists are just envious. Envious of people who have more money and are able to buy new stuff, or people who don’t have such a depression that gives them a fit when they think of consuming or buying.”

    Sure that makes sense! Who would have thought that environmentalists actually care about the environment and realize that people are using the planet like a garbage dump. And of course, there’s absolutely no problem with using up resources faster than they can replenish themselves. And all those polluted lakes and oceans? Not our problem. What about the animals that choke on garbage and get caught in giant fishing nets? They’re just too stupid to know any better.

    Just because our selfish actions harm the environment, doesn’t mean we should care right? It’s not like it’s directly affecting us.

    Why take responsibility when we can just blame other countries that are worse than us? As long as there are other countries creating worse problems for the environment, we don’t have to do anything. Plus, having all this awesome stuff makes us happy right? And that’s of course the most important thing. Who needs to see the effects we create when we can just be safe in our own comfortable bubble?

  • Uncle B

    As anticipated, the pro-capitalist, corporatist faction, totally propagandized, have jumped on the bandwagon, comparing socialism! Where are the alternatives? Is Socialism to Capitalism as black is to white? NO! There are other less propagandized ways of doing things! What are they? Why are we diverted automatically by our strong propaganda to immediately draw comparisons and invoke Socialism, then communism and in negative terms, as the only alternative philosophies? This is only so in the well propagandized American mind! The oriental philosophies may bring other notions to the fore that will entrance the down-beaten American soul! What if: just what if there were a wider range of ideas outside the “American Box”? Outside the strict limits of Capitalism or Socialism only alternative theory? Outside our schooling, beyond our severely narrow-minded propagandization all these years? India presents a different form of “Democracy” as defined by the American propagandists! Very different indeed! Still democracy, but not by Yankee Doodle’s indoctrination! Goddamn! Outside his box! China’s communism/capitalism doesn’t fit anything Americans can digest in their narrow-minded, rigid and well propagandized, criteria oriented, definition system, so we wallow in mis-information! Fact is: All this pollution was originated by Capitalism’s seeking higher ROI! and has very little to do with sustainable survival of mankind! Childish bull Shiite fed, the Americans set the “one use, throw away” system in motion and set wrong precedent for the rest of the world! The Americans today face and Armageddon! They no longer have a strong dollar to demand these follies at the expense of 80% of the worlds resources! They will go through belt-tightening, and trend-set sustainability in the world, or face extinction! Remember: The U.S.S.R. faded to rubble in a single decade! America can do the same! The precedent was set thirty years ago! It is so possible! History shows Empires rapidly fading to rubble! Beware America!

  • Myra

    It’s pretty funny that when someone makes a statement through art that you happen to notice you feel the need to act with such incredible hostility and resort to accusing the artist of left-wing propaganda.

    There are several themes to this work – one is environmental – yes. I can easily think of some other important themes – greed, the rise of manufacturism and its impacts on society, the excess of the developed world…

    By opening the forum with this rather hateful and condemning comment you have forced individuals to resort to an alternative position to yourself – so this conversation has degenerated into capitalists vs socialists.

    Its bizarre really – perhaps more about you and your personal agenda than the agenda of the artist?

  • solarpanelsforsale

    Astounding. We make so much waste and it is only getting worse as things get cheaper. We really need to rethink how often we buy new and through away. I must say though, amazing photos.

  • D. R. Cuellar

    I agree completely.

  • StaterOfTheObvious

    I love how a kid like me gets to shove it in your face. That you just want to self justify that the artists who go the distance to take these photos to show to the rest of the world what is happening (IN AMERICA ONLY – THINK OF THE OTHER COUNTRIES). And you go and sling mud at his work, and the best you could do was to say that the curcuit boards picture was just over dramatic. Well take a look at the others, moblie phones are small and look how much smaller they are turning up in the picture. Your the one thats dramatising about how the artists dramatise about what isn’t there.
    ‘You people are not doing yourselves a favor by repeating the phrase “the whole world should see this” over and over again. Take a look at the facts because judging from some pretty, cleverly taken photos doesn’t make you appear, erm, intelligent. I am not interested in defending mass consumption, but these pictures are just well made propaganda which an adult should be able to spot.’
    Your obviously an adult that believes whatever comes your way first. Well, you might ‘see past this propaganda(as you believe it is)’ but too bad you fell for the one that came first, ‘plastic can be recycled’, ‘plastic is degradable’, ‘but the things in the recycling bin because they’ll do something about it’ Who’s they? Definately not an unintelligent single minded adult like you.

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  • Huggy Muggy

    Sure, and I am entitled to draw my own conclusions about these people.

  • Huggy Muggy

    Environmentalism is just another word for a mental condition that’s not healthy. Sure, you guys think you care about the environment, and are somehow cleverer than others because you think you see problems that “us dumb masses of consumers” aren’t able to see, but, after all, this is just a hobby of yours. A way to make yourselves feel better, push your ego, because, and this is my interpretation, you lack a real purpose in life. Most environmentalists are left-wing, and don’t have a real career or family. They work a freelancers, live an alternative lifestyle in a hip neighborhood, and spend their time looking down on people who have proper, well-paid jobs or a a fulfilled family that consumes stuff.

    Wake up and realize that your concern, or better, hatred, for people who have no qualms with consumption, is nothing but deep-seated envy.

    Have you people ever flown over Siberia? Do you realize how empty this world still is and how much trash we can put into landfills? Even if we stop recycling right now and throw everything into landfills from now on, we won’t run out of space for the next couple of thousand years. Before our consumption gets us, we’ll surely figure out ways to end humankind by letting the wrong people acquire nuclear weapons, or letting Goldman Sachs destroy society.

  • Nick

    I’m shocked at how little mention there has been of overpopulation in these comments. So far I’ve only dim conservative promotion of the value of family and children. Population growth should be at the forefront of any discussion about consumption or ecological concerns. There are many good solutions to the problem of garbage, the unmanagable scale of it is the real issue.

  • solar

    Great stuff, but why do these kinds of things always have to specify “America”? It’s not like Europeans and Canadians are much different. This is a human problem above all. The British don’t recycle at all – they ship all of their recycling to China where it is disposed of in the worst ways possible.

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  • load shedding

    I think it’s telling that they cited homeland security as a reason why piles of trash shouldn’t be photographed. Perhaps the real threat is that people will start consuming more mindfully

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  • Gofer

    For those of you that don’t know, in the US, at least 65% of “waste” steel is recycled. Additionally, the spent casings are probably brass, approximately 90% of brass is recycled. Seeing steel and brass the piles means that it is already in the recycling stream. Not very provocative when you know the facts, is it?

    • emlyn

      OK, so that takes care of the cars and casings. Now what about the other 98% of waste? Is the Pacific “plastic continent” not provocative enough?

      • Carlos

        The fact that almost all of the things he took pictures of were sorted (the cell phones, the circuit boards) means that at least some of the components are going to be recycled.  Nobody’s going to separate out all the cell phones from a trash stream just so they can make a “cell phone pile” at the landfill.  Theyre doing it because they can make money by recycling something from that cell phone (my guess is either the batteries or the plastic). 

        The “e-bank” picture is what real trash looks like, just a big pile of random crap.

  • ZavGom

    Unas fotos bien pajas, se ven interesantes, sobre todo la de los celulares (primera foto) .. cool man !!

  • Sheetal

    Will this affect the American consumer mind? Atleast, standing the shopping mall for once they would think……

  • Charlie Red

    Neat Pictures!

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