Just over a decade ago, Canada turned waste management around by realizing modest gains in our paper recycling efforts. Specifically, in 1993 we collected and recycled more paper and cardboard than we buried in our landfills. Since then, more and more municipalities have signed on and developed their own recycling programs. Many have offset the collection of plastic/glass and paper on a bi-monthly basis, incorporated some form of organic recycling, and even proposed banning everything from plastic bags to bottled water. As environmental interest continues to increase, so too does the incorporation of recycled materials into eco-friendly art installations.
There’s the Urban Tumbleweed Project, which consists of 2,663 plastic bags that form a half mile chain, while the significance of the number of bags used represents the number of bags America consumes every second. Another interesting project is the Junk Ship, a sea worthy vessel consisting of 15,000 recycled bottles, fishing nets, and a discarded Cessna cockpit, which sailed from California to Hawaii last year. Last but not least is the work of Chris Jordan, whose Running the Numbers photographic series depicts everything from 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption in the US), to 32,000 bags of silicone, (monthly breast augmentation surgeries in the US).
Although the prevalence of locally-generated environmentally conscious art is rather minimal, we recently noticed a amazing installation in the lobby of the BioSci Complex at Queen’s. There you’ll see the 5 foot tall ConservaTree (or at least that’s what I’m calling it), which was constructed with discarded newspaper, and other scraps that were recovered from two recycling bins over a three day period. 10 graduate students from the Environmental Sustainability program are responsible for this display, which they hope will help promote environmental conservation, and reduce the consumption of paper products on campus.
According to the students, discarded paper products represents 35% of the waste generated by Queen’s. By collecting and combining the contents of only a few recycling bins over such a short period, the shear waste of the entire institution is put into perspective. Further, the group’s decision to create a paper tree helps turn recycling upside down, and gets people thinking about the raw source of everyday consumables. Be sure to check out the eco-sculpture, which will be on display until this Friday. In case you miss it, you can find a few pictures on our Flickr.