For four years, photographer Antoine Repessé saved his recyclable waste in different rooms of his apartment.
It piled high; each room separated by material. The 37-year-old photographer from Lille, France, also enlisted more than 200 of his friends and family members to join in too, each one adding some of their recyclables to the growing heaps. Before long, the floors were covered with cans, bottles, and cardboard — more than 70 cubic meters (about 183 square feet) of garbage. Finally, Repessé was ready.
In his photo series “#365Unpacked,” Repasse put his waste to use to illustrate the importance of recycling and sustainable packaging.
The items were carefully sorted, and Repasse used them alongside his subjects to highlight the dramatic impact of the waste we produce.
“We’re often told about the quantity of waste we produce but I think … the impact of a picture can be much more powerful than tons of words,” he writes in an emailed statement. “I tried to produce a perfect picture which got something disturbing because what I’m talking about isn’t nice at all.”
In each image, the model is meant to appear as if they are drowning in packaging…
…overcome with not only the sheer volume of waste, but a certain powerlessness to reverse the trend.
The highly composed and stylized photos are compelling. Each one took as long as 10 hours to produce.
Each shocking image forces the viewer to truly consider what happens to their waste when they dispose of it.
Since #365Unpacked, Repessé has changed some of his habits too — starting with the way he eats.
The project made him more conscious of the containers and excessive packaging on frozen and convenience foods, like K-cups, so he’s started cooking more. The change helps the environment and saves him money.
“To be involved in this project made me more conscious, but I’m still not perfect,” Repessé says. He did, however, make sure to recycle or reuse all the waste after the photoshoots, so he’s off to a good start.
Americans generate an estimated 4.4 pounds of waste each day, and recycle or compost just over 1.5 pounds of it, about 34%.
In 1990, that figure was only 16%. While we’re improving, we can’t celebrate just yet. Waste disposal and prevention is everyone’s problem, and we must continue to fight for more green packaging, community recycling and compost programs, and continued education on recycling and waste management. As Repessé says, “…we just can’t ignore we’re responsible for this.”