On September 19, 2016, activist Rob Greenfield ceased throwing his garbage out— in the traditional sense, anyways. Rob has decided to wear all of the garbage that he produces over a 30 day period in order to make a point about over-consumption. This project, aptly named “Trash Me,” is right on-brand for Greenfield, who has made it his mission to inspire a healthier earth by using attention-grabbing tactics. Walking around New York City wearing every piece of garbage he creates should do just that.
Greenfield told news outlet TakePart that he “wanted to come up with a visual way to get people thinking about how much trash they create,” and so, with clear plastic bags strapped to his person, Rob has been continuing with his every-day life in New York City (albeit a bit slower due to his “baggage”), while simultaneously raising awareness about the impact of garbage and material waste on our environment. In order to remain accurate, Rob will not be turning down any trash that is offered to him — not flyers, not plastic bags, nothing.
Inspired by the shocking figures by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which state that each person in the US produces about 2.1 kg of solid waste every day, Rob is resolved to eat, shop, and consume “just like the average American person” throughout the duration of this project by producing approximately that amount (2.1 kg) of waste each day. Trash Me is a reaction (which, some may say is an extreme one), to the convenience of our waste-disposal systems in North America. Greenfield is attempting to take the convenience of “out of sight, out of mind” that comes with garbage disposal and put it right back into people’s line of vision — attempting to create individual accountability for the severe environmental degradation that is occurring thanks to our waste.
Using the production and disposal of a bag of potato chips as an example, Greenfield highlights the deep implications that our wasteful habits have on the environment, noting that: “that bag might last for five minutes of eating—five minutes of enjoyment. But the thing about it is, to get that plastic packaging to you, that meant that there had to be mining of virgin materials from the Earth. That had to be shipped around the world, created in a manufacturing center—all of that taking fossil fuels, electricity, and emitting greenhouse gases and pollution. Then, once you eat the chips, the packaging goes to either the landfill or the ocean. To get it to the landfill, garbage trucks need to drive around using fossil fuels [and] once it gets to the landfill, its life isn’t over. It’s going to live for about 500 years. Or possibly eternity.”
Rob has, of course, run into obstacles throughout his project— including the smell, the societal reaction, and the actual weight of the trash. Despite his knowledge on the figures of how much waste we create, Greenfield states that he too was shocked at the sheer amount of trash that that 2.1 kg manifests into, not realizing “how quickly it would add up just doing normal things.”
While it’s easy to look at the extreme statistics on waste of our neighbours to the South, it is important to recognize that the amount of waste created by Canadians is directly comparable to that of Americans. According to 2011 figures by Environment Canada, Canada produces approximately 30 million tonnes of municipal solid waste each year, amounting to 1.8 kg (or 4 pounds) created each day per person. Comparing this to America’s 2.1 kg (or 4.62 pounds) per person, Canadians can hardly take the moral high-ground.
While it may not be in vogue to wear garbage, thanks to Rob Greenfield, we now know what it looks like. Further updates on Trash Me (projected to last until October 19, 2016) can be found at http://robgreenfield.tv/trashme/.