Archive for the ‘Trashtastic Tuesdays’ Category

Trash Spectacles in Lebanon

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Today we revive the long dormant weekly feature, Trashtastic Tuesday, with an inspiring performance series. The (B)IM Project, short for books in motion, cites as its mission “to make theatre accessible in Lebanon by performing for free, in site -specific locations across Lebanon.”


The company’s latest project is called “10453: A Story About Life in 1 km2 of Trash.” Kindly, writer/director Camille Brunel Aoun and Producer Denise Maroney agreed to answer a few questions for

everydaytrash: What is “10453: A Story About Life in 1 km2 of Trash”? How did the project come about? 

The (B)IM Project: 10453 is a theatrical performance that combine dance, mime, clown, text and images related to the nightmare of our everyday life surrounded by trash. The play is a journey through the life and habits of 5 characters who deal with garbage, both consciously and unconsciously. The play offers metaphors for the absurdity of a society that ignores the dirt it is breathing in every day and the danger it is creating for itself.

The title “10453” references the official square area of Lebanon ( 10,453 km2). We added an extra kilometer (10453) to allude to the growing kilometers of trash that are popping up across Lebanon’s coast (e.g. Saida trash mountain; Google it, if you don’t already know about it, you’ll be horrified!)

Group scene

The project began in 2011, when producer Denise Maroney was awarded a grant from the Theatre Communications Group to workshop a theatrical production in Lebanon, pertaining to the Mediterranean Sea. During this period, Maroney spent time examining topics related to Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast. The abundance of trash found on beaches and in the sea struck a chord. With director/writer Camille Brunel Aoun, the two began imagining a performance that would spotlight trash and question human behavior relating to waste.

everydaytrash: Where will the tour take the performance?

(B)IM: We began with performances on the boardwalks of major cities in Lebanon- Tyre, Sidon and Beirut. The boardwalks offered an appropriate location: a public, accessible place where land and sea meet. The backdrop of the sea provided a stunning effect and resonated within the story.

We are currently preparing to present this play in various festivals across Lebanon during Ramadan. In the fall, we hope to perform in schools and indoor theatres across Lebanon. And of course, we will be looking for opportunities to take this play into international theatre festivals!


everydaytrash: Several of your past performances have incorporated trash and recycled material, what do you see as the connections between theater and waste? Are there particular connections for Lebanese or more generally Middle Eastern societies?

Theater offers a space to re-imagine ‘waste.’ Lebanon, in particular, is a country surrounded by waste, namely rubble from post war de/re-construction and heaps of abandoned trash.  By animating discarded material from the society we are living in, we are opening up imaginations and inviting our audience to creatively examine their environmental space.

One can also approach the relationship between theater and waste through the lens of legendary Polish director, Jerzy Grotowsky, and his ideas of a poor theatre:  “Theatre must recognize its proper limitations. If the stage cannot be richer than cinema, let it then be poor. If it cannot be as lavish as television, let it be ascetic.”  Thus, we use what surrounds us to create theatre. At the end of the day, you can create for a very low cost. It’s a positive and magical act to create “something” from very little.

Beach trash scene in Saida

everydaytrash:  What’s next for The (B)IM  Project?

(B)IM: We’re going to live with this play for a while… performing in different venues across Lebanon. Eventually, we want to perform it beyond Lebanon’s borders. Whether we tour in neighboring Middle Eastern countries, or beyond, 10453 is a play relevant to all citizens on this Earth.

Trashtastic Tuesday: Nick Rosen’s Off the Grid

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Tuesday, trashies. The following is a free  excerpt from British journalist  Nick Rosen‘s book Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America, published by Penguin USA this past August. The author has kindly shared this waste-related passage just for us.  More on the book and larger “off-grid” movement here.

Or, if you hate reading, you can watch this handy book intro video.

From Chapter 3

I should apologize to the reader for returning to the issue raised so eloquently by Bob Reynolds in his letter to the mayor: toilets.  It’s a big subject when you are off the grid—possibly the biggest.  Everyone who lives off the grid has lost count of the number of times they are asked in a coy, slightly amused way, “So what do you do about, you know, going to the bathroom?” And now the entire drama unfolding on No Name Key has come down to toilets and the acceptability of the forty-two septic tanks and one composting toilet currently dealing with the human waste from the forty-three mainly part-time small family dwellings on the island with its aging population of retirees and second-home owners.

There are just four alternatives that would satisfy the new federal rules designed to prevent the leaching of chemicals and other noxious materials into the soil of No Name Key and then into the water table. Sticking with the status quo is not one of them.

The first is to build a full-scale commercial sewage system to service the forty-three homes. It would require a grid-scale power supply, and once installed it would be able to service a near-infinite increase in the amount of human waste in the small community.

The second option is known as a “thin-pipe” sewage system. It would be operated by electric pumps situated on or under the Bebe Rebozo bridge, but powered from the mainland. The third is the alternative favored by Alicia: a modified version of the septic tank that would meet the new standards. The fourth and final alternative is the composting toilet. This is a well-understood technology that, if correctly managed, produces a harmless material, very similar to rich soil, and can be used to grow organic vegetables. The solar-power faction had tentatively proposed a composter at one point, but had been howled down by the other side.

The one functioning composting toilet on the island is built by Clivus Multrum, a market leader in composting toilets. Although the owner, a postal worker, was out of town when I visited the island, Jim Newton took me to the home because he wanted to show me the huge object, conveniently stored under the raised first floor of the house, which like many on the island rested on stilts in order to reduce potential damage in case of fl oods. This design creates a covered area under the house—a basement at ground level, so to speak. As I walked around to the basement entrance, I passed a huge array of solar panels perched on a wooden pedestal, and a set of four Rolls batteries—the Rolls-Royce of solar batteries. They are known to have a far longer life and to be three times as heavy and four times as expensive as normal deep-cycle batteries. Next to the batteries, a white tank holds the gray water from the house. Gray water is the term for water from sinks, showers, dishwashers, and the like. Once used for washing, it can be used to fl ush a toilet or water a garden.

While most composting toilets are simple, functional, and inexpensive, the Clivus Multrum is the Hummer of composting toilets, a vast and intricate object. The unit in the bathroom is a normal toilet bowl, and a basement of some sort is required because a long, wide pipe travels down from the toilet to an ugly, green-ribbed plastic container. This container stands as tall as a man and takes up fi fteen to twenty square feet of fl oor space, with several doors for different functions. One is used to put in worms; another is used to remove the compost once it has transformed into an earthlike substance. The process can take many months. This is the reason for the large size of the contraption.

“The effluent drops down through this tube”—my escort indicated the green tube entering the composter—“from the potty upstairs.” Jim walked ahead of me toward the silent, brooding object. Once I had raised my video camera, he turned to me gravely and said, “Are you ready? This is not going to be a pretty sight.” He gripped the handle of the smallest door. “Are you ready for this?” he asked again. I nodded. “Now, I’ll lift the lid, but I won’t hold it open for a long time,” he said. The cover came back and hundreds of cockroaches ran for the darkness across a black, tarlike substance that was, presumably, the effl uent. I instinctively looked away, and by the time my eyes returned a second later, Jim had slammed shut the door. How the cockroaches had got there I cannot imagine, as the whole system is sealed. Could it have been via the toilet bowl upstairs?

One other pipe, a narrower one painted white, exited the composter, snaking its way around the basement before disappearing up into the house. I asked what this was for. “It’s an air vent,” Jim told me. “It allows gases to escape, all the way up to the roof. In any system—my own septic tank—gases are produced.”

Jim’s whole body sagged at the thought of the gases being produced. “So instead of letting them out around your home on the ground level, the gases are transported through the pipe to the very uppermost area so they can escape into the atmosphere.”

“What if the wind is blowing the wrong way?” I asked.

“Yup,” he said, looking grim.

By then I had met at least ten of the leading actors in this drama, and although I doubted the sincerity of some of the witnesses, I was still unsure about the detailed rights and wrongs of the matter.

But I knew where to go for an answer…..

For more background, here’s a Salon interview with Rosen and  a HuffPo piece he wrote.

The upcycling college

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don’t know what to do with your career come August? Why not sign up to a 1-year program in upcycling design? Can’t believe I haven’t seen this before:

In the fall of 2008, Eskilstuna College started a course on sustainable development and recycling technologies. The course runs over two semesters and is intended for students who wants to work both theoretically and practically with the creation of new products from recycled materials.

You will have to work with practically everything from furniture restoration to the jewelry manufacture and use your imagination and creativity and you will certainly gain new insights into what sustainability really means.

This is really as cool as one thinks. [Apply here.] The work of this years trashtastic students can be followed at their blog, and their flickr. Personally, I’ve got my eyes on this vinyl record fruit bowl:

Vinyl record fruit bowl

The student will stage an end-of-the-year exhibition, open 27 May-20 August, at the college in Eskilstuna, so if you pass through Sweden, be sure to make a detour. In Stockholm, creations can be purchased at swop:art.

Hope you’re having a Trashtastic Tuesday!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Victor, The Lorax, Leila - photo by Nina Brennder

Victor, The Lorax, Leila - photo by Nina Brenner

Trashtastic Thursday with Cynthia Korzekwa

Thursday, February 26, 2009

For the latest installment of our periodic Tuesday (and sometimes Thursday) series of trash talks, I caught up with artist, activist and garblogger Cynthia Korzekwa of Art for Housewives—one of the first sites to blogroll everydaytrash back in the day.  And a constant source of inspiration since.


Cynthia Korzekwa

everydaytrash: What is bricolage?

Cynthia Korzekwa: Bricolage is taking something old and, via context, making it new. It comes from the French verb bricoler meaning “fiddle, tinker.” A person who engages in bricolage is a bricoleur. And a bricoleur has the capacity to take available materials and, using hands and imagination, give them a new identity.

The French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss used the word bricolage to explain a means of acquiring knowledge and, in particular, mythical thought. Because mythology dabbles with existing knowledge to create new meaning.

However, my interest for the term came from reading the biologist, François Jacob, and his idea that evolution is a tinkerer. Because, to evolve, nature adapts what already exists.

And it is the spirit of the bricoleur that we must have in order to transform our trash into a resource. Why make things using virgin materials when there is so much that we throw away that we can use instead. The mind of the bricoleur is not standardized. Not producing in mass, he does not use have an assembly-line approach to creating. He creates what he needs with what he has.

Bricolage makes the useless useful. In terms of trash, a bricoleur can transform vice into virtue.

Orange, Cynthia Korzekwa

Orange, Cynthia Korzekwa

everydaytrash: How many Web sites do you have ?

Korzekwa: I don’t know how many websites I have. When I first became interested in internet and websites, I signed up for all the freebie spaces available and began experimenting. Being a technological illiterate, I signed up for A Quicky Course on how to make websites and just started making them. Very primitive stuff (and basically, they still are). But the only way to evolve is to experiment. And that’s what I did. Now, of course, I have a different rapport with internet. And the yin yang of content and form has shifted its weight. Content interests me more thus I no longer feel the need to make more websites. Unless, of course, there’s not a particular need as was the case with MAKE ART, NOT TRASH.

everydaytrash: What motivated you to start Art for Housewives the blog?

Korzekwa: Several years ago, I read “1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” and literally felt sick to my stomach after reading it. Some 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, felt the need to get together to declare their concern for our future. Their statement begins with:

Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.

Very spooky stuff. My immediate concern was for Sergio and Chiara, my children. I felt the need to react. And that’s how my blog, Art For Housewives, began. And the time, I already had a blog, Obliterated, that focused on the idea that making things with your hands was a form of active meditation. So basically, I kept that idea but added a new element—that of making things from trash. My blog, Art For Housewives, is almost 6 years old now. In the beginning it was quite difficult to find on-line examples of recycling to make objects that were not only useful but beautiful as well. The only women whom seemed interested in the use of trash to make something were those of Third World countries. Women who had no money to buy “art supplies.”

Cynthia Korzekwa's studio

Cynthia Korzekwa's studio

My blog had immediate success–6 to 10,000 visits per month. But what helped me a lot, visit wise, was that a kind of Neo-Domesticity began to flourish after September 11th. Women began giving value to the home and thus to crafts which had been abandoned in favour of “emancipation.” And so they began knitting like crazy and starting blogs to exchange patterns and info. Martha Stewart also animated alot of female souls. With her, it became trendy to care about your home. Related blogs began cropping up all the time. Now there are so many women out there making things and blogging about it. They are making art that is so much more exciting than that alienating conceptual stuff mainstream art caters to.

everydaytrash: I heard you are working on Art for Housewives, an illustrated essay in the style of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis. How’s the project going?

Korzekwa: After a couple of years blogging Housewives, I decided to publish an illustrated essay based on the information I had collected, ARTE PER MASSAIE (“art for housewives” in Italian). The text and artwork was no problem but, living in Italy, I had to write in Italian. Never having studied it, my Italian is a bit folkloristic. Luckily, there’s a decent English translation at the end of the book.


book cover

everydattrash: How did MAKE ART, NOT TRASH come about?

Korzekwa: Last year, I decided to try a bit of activism and this led to MAKE ART, NOT TRASH, a site with links to some of my favourite examples of how to transform trash. You know, bricolage. Then I printed 300 stickers and put them on the dumpsters in the area of my studio, San Lorenzo (Rome). The stickers had a drawing of a bunny encouraging people to think before throwing something away.

bunny sticker in the wild

bunny sticker in the wild

Critical mass is fundamental for change. Take Kerala, India, for example. Being a very poor state with a high birthrate, the local government tried convincing women to practice contrapception and men to be sterilized but with little success. Then a major emphasis was placed on education and everyone sent to school. As a result, today the citizens of Kerala are 100% literate, an anomaly in India. As a result, the birth rate has drastically dropped. Once you are educated, no one needs to convince you what is the right thing to do because you know on your own.

Awareness helps one make the right choices.

(Photos via Korzekwa’s many Web sites)

Interview with Mattias Hagberg

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Followers of this blog perhaps recall this post about the book Skräp (“skräp” being Swedish for “garbage”) from November. Today we are proud to present an interview with the author, Mattias Hagberg.

Mattias Hagberg, journalist resident in Sweden's second city Gothenburg, author of Skräp

Mattias Hagberg, journalist resident in Sweden's second city Gothenburg, author of Skräp

Before we start, a little recap: Skräp is a book about garbage, in which Mattias Hagberg starts off with discontinuing the routine of taking out his family’s trash. Instead, he hides their fully loaded plastic garbage bags under the sink. This soon becomes a ridiculous exercise, and Mattias proceeds his experiment in a secret room in the cellar of the house, keeping neighbours using the cellar unaware. However, Mattias quickly understands the practical limitations of this project, and gasping for breath moves his horribly stinking trash collection (only a few days old) to the garbage container room.

Back in his apartment, Mattias Hagberg ponders over where his trash actually will be going, now that it’s out of his experiment and back into the system. Since the early 90’s, Sweden’s had an idea of system called “The Nature’s Cycle”, an idea based on the notion that our garbage can and should be recycled, i.e. return to the Nature’s Cycle. Much like Mufasa teaches his son Simba about how lions die and turn to grass, eaten by anthelopes, in the Disney blockbuster The Lion King.

Skräp, the book

Skräp, the book

Mattias Hagberg soon discovers that trash isn’t much of a happy circle-of-life story. Instead, he gives a thrilling tale about the cash in trash, how “recycling” still produces tonnes and tonnes of toxic waste and how our electronic waste ends up in slum quarters in Ghana and China, in a chain starting at your local recycling depot, going through multi-national corporations, to the mafia.

Hello Mattias Hagberg, how are you, what’s up?

– Doing alright thanks, slight headcold, other than that fine. Working on what feels like a gazillion of projects. I think most relevant for your readers is an article about the Swedish auto industry, with the angle that the point is not to save this industry, but understand that the whole system of autoism is in crisis. That constructing and buying new cars simply won’t do.

Cewl, looking forward to reading it! So, why did you decide to write a book about garbage?

– The idea was actually my editor’s. At first I was scpetic, it all felt very technical, I didn’t really know anything about garbage, had this vague idea about the recycling system working smoothly. Then I did the experiment, stopped taking out the trash, an experiment you know proved do be quite stupid. But it inspired me to take things to the next level. I realised that while we have a functioning recycling system, that system doesn’t recycle everything, far from it. And the system is suffering from the fact that we keep producing increasingly more waste. As everyday citizens however, we have a veil above our eyes for this fact, we are never confronted with the real problem: That we buy a flat screen TV when our old TV works quite well.

Which  part of the work surprised you the most?

– The insane amount of garbage each of us produce in one year. Several hundrered pounds! In the average family, about 20-25% of this garbage is food, that is most often perfectly edible! I was also intrigued by how fooled we are that there is a connection between “recycle” and “close”, how we pervive recycling to be this story about a process in harmony with nature. It’s a global industry, run by multinational enterprise. To me, it resembles the middle-age trade in letters of indulgence. For example, when garbage is burned, energy is produced that heats houses, and filters keeps the smoke clean, but the toxic remains after burning, and the poisons caught in the filter, still remains, and needs to be kept somewhere.

How has this changed your relationship to garbage?

– I think that deep down, we are all aware of that more consumption is just foolish, but we ignore this and continues to buy. For myself, of course the work with the book has effected what I buy and what I do with it, but at the same time I’m a bit fed up with the individualist perspective. We must focus more on the systemic errors of our culture, bring the debate from the behaviour of people to the behaviour of enterprise. Right now we have no debate, and we know that the resources of this earth will end. The garbage system of today is something we really need to adress, together.

Trashtastic Tuesday with Erica Dolland

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

  Last week I had catch-up drinks with Erica Dolland, an old friend from high school who just returned to New York after a couple years working in Ghana.  I told her I now have a trash blog.  She told me that among other amazing activities she had undertaken since we last hung out, she taught Ghanaian kids to fashion handbags out of the plastic bags water is sold in throughout Africa.  And so another trashtastic tuesday was born.  Expect to see much more everydaytrash coverage on the privatization of water  in the coming weeks.  I’m all riled up and have some cool stuff to share.

everydaytrash: How did you get the idea for the project?

Dolland: It was a two-fold interest from needs I identified in the community: environment preservation and income generation.  Running water is not accessible in many of the rural areas of Ghana, and its not distilled.  Therefore, Ghanaians resort to purchasing water bags to consume drinkable water but then dispose the bags on the ground when finished. I’m a huge environmentalist!  One thing that is so captivating about Ghana is that the country occupies a beautiful, serene, lush green landscape.  But there are minimal efforts and initiatives dedicated to environmental conservation.


In Ghana, women are also severely marginalized and their employment opportunities are scarce due to a myriad of social injustices. You have a segment of population that can’t participate and is impoverished.  I wanted to create a project that would generate income for women and their children, as well as improve environmental conditions.



everydaytrash: Who participated?

Dolland: I opened the workshops to people in the community who were interested in learning how to make the bags to generate additional income for themselves.  I had a lot of receptiveness to the project from Ghanaian youth in the community.  I don’t think a lot of adults were keen on carrying around former trash, but the kids thought it was cool.  I really only expected girls to be interested, since they are groomed at a young age to take interest in catering and sewing activities.  Much to my surprise though, boys expressed the same level of interest.  I ended up conducting several workshops in the local elementary and junior high schools.  The younger students definitely had a harder time, since they weren’t as adept to using a sewing needle–that’s right, no sewing machines here, way too expensive–but they ended up creating a functional bag to carry school supplies in.  Their teachers even loved the idea and participated in the workshops.


everydaytrash: Is it ongoing?

Dolland: I was sent to Ghana by an organization called The International Foundation of Education and Self-Help.  The over riding mission of the organization is to “help others, so they can help themselves.”  When I conceived the project I wanted to make sure it was sustainable after I left.  It was mandatory that anyone who participated in the workshop was required to to teach someone else in the community. When people would come to my house asking for one-on-one lessons, I’d say “Nope, find so and so, she’ll teach you how to make it.”  It is my hope that people will expand on the basic construction that I taught them to create even more unique bags.

everydaytrash:  Sweet.  We’ll look out for them!


Workshop photos supplied by Erica.  Photo of Erica tutoring ripped from her Facebook page.

Trashtastic Tuesday with Tracey Smith

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


  This week I got a chance to communicate with Tracey Smith, British journalist and author of the new Book of Rubbish Ideas.  I know, I know, it’s Wednesday already and not Tuesday.  The tardys are racking up and we’re not even through September…


everydaytrash:    I see you’ve founded International Downshifting Week in England.  What is downshifting and what’s this holiday all about? 

Smith:  I put IDW together a few years ago following my own huge downshift back in 2002.  Downshifting for me is about giving a positive embrace to living with less and cutting back on your time and finance budgets too. 

Remember, the more money you spend, the more time you have to be out there earning it and the less time you get to spend with the ones you love. 

Downshifting can have a positive impact on your mental health and well being, your pocket, your relationships and of course, your bin!  Living more sustainably means you’ll be encouraged to cook from fresh and put those peelings in the composting bin, which will make a huge difference to what you throw away.

There’s a heap of information on the website – take a look at this site and don’t forget to read the Downshifting Manifesto!

everydaytrash:  The Book of Rubbish Ideas will be out soon with ideas for greening every room in the house.  Can you leak us a teaser?  We read a lot about our bathrooms and kitchens and their impact on the environment.  What can we do to downshift, say, our bedrooms?

Smith:  That’s really easy! If you take a look at the website for the book, you can read the entire Introduction, Kitchen and Study chapters via a clever magazine gadget thingie – techno really isn’t my bag, but even I could work out how to use it, so it must be simple!  

As for bedrooms, some of my favourite tips from the book include: 

Crocs have become one of the biggest-selling shoes. They have a successful recycling scheme in America, and will soon be starting a similar scheme in the UK. Your old Crocs are recycled back into new shoes and donated to people in need around the world. Visit their site for details of the American project.

• Soft glowing, low-energy LED lights are perfect for the whole house and particularly gorgeous in the bedroom. They will save you money and some come with lifetime guarantees on the bulbs/lamps. The oldstyle filament light bulbs or lamps are not recycled yet, but things could change, so check with your local recycling centre ormunicipal site to see what their protocol is and check out Vessel for details of their range of eco-lighting.

• Get your sewing kit out and customise some of your outfits. It’s great fun and easy to do. Find your nearest haberdashers and buy some patches, sequins, mirrors, crystals and braid to liven up your wardrobe.

everydaytrash:  What’s your next trash journalism project?

Smith:  Actually, I’m taking a short breather to a tour for the book and am talking to a couple of publishers about exploring other sustinable living topics, so I’m sure the pen won’t be out of my hand for long.

I wholehartedly believe that if we all start making small and simple changes to our everyday lives, we’ll be able to effect enormous change.  Not only that, but we’ll also be able to help our children find the right, green groove too.

To buy the book at a reduced rate and to read Tracey’s blog on more Rubbish Ideas, check the site.

Portrait provided by the author, book cover ripped from her site, Indonesian kids w/Crocs ripped from Croc’s Web site.  

Note: everydaytrash thinks recycling Crocs is a good idea, concedes that they are comfy for nurses, applauds the company for donating the product in countries where shoes are scarse but is still disturbed by the ubiquity of those strange rubber shoes around Brooklyn.  


Bag-making tips from a (fashionable) pro

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In preparation for my bag-making party, I asked my friend Rachel of Lady Jane Designs for some advice on the dos and don’ts of DIY totes.  Those of you not into sewing (or just looking for hot accessories) can find and purchase beautiful bags from Lady Jane Designs on Etsy.   Anything but frumpy!

everydaytrash: How did you get into bagmaking and when do you find the time?

Lady Jane Designs: I got into bagmaking because I had a lot of scraps of fabric left over from other projects, and wanted to find something to make with them (up to that point, I had mostly made dresses).  I also liked having a sewing project that I could start and finish within a few hours, and they made great gifts for my friends when I didn’t have the time to devote to making them a whole garment.  Finding the time to sew can be difficult working full time but I manage to squeeze it into the evenings and weekends.  The most time consuming part is generally cutting the pattern (though much less time consuming than a garment) and ironing/sewing in the interfacing, which you generally want to do all in one go.  The sewing part you can do in bits whenever you have time.  In fact I am taking a break from sewing right now to write this.

everydaytrash: What kind of materials make the best tote bags, practically and fashionably speaking?  What materials should one avoid?

Lady Jane Designs: In terms of recycled materials, you want to look for heavier weight, woven materials.  Materials such as denim or upholstrey weight fabric will make the best bags.  Avoid materials that are knit, such as old t-shirts…knits make great apparel, but as a bag they’ll stretch out once you weigh them down with stuff.  Also try to avoid any materials that are loosely woven, they can tend to get snagged on things and aren’t as durable.  In terms of newer fabrics, I love all the awesome fabrics coming out of Japan, you can find some great stuff on sites like,, or various sellers on  For the exterior of the bag, try to search for terms like “canvas” or “upholstrey weight.”

Any other tips, common novice mistakes to avoid?

Lady Jane Designs: Generally you’ll want to interface your bag, which will maintain its shape but also increase its durability.  It adds another step to the process but you’ll thank yourself in the end.  You will also want to get some good thread (not the cheap dollar store variety!) and some thick needles.  You’ll also want to invest in a good iron that gets really hot.  Thick materials can be stubborn so you’ll really want to iron the hell out of them to open your seams.

everydaytrash: Trashtastic tips, thanks!

Note to New Yorkers: Rachel will be selling her stuff this Sunday at the Artists and Fleas market in Williamsburg, sharing the table with another fabulous accessories designer, Tiny Hearts.

Photos ripped from Lady Jane Designs.

Trashtastic Tuesday with Kim Holleman

Monday, July 21, 2008

For those of you, like me, who couldn’t make it to the TRASHNAMI! opening last week, here’s a trashtastic interview with artist Kim Holleman. I’m posting this early because it’s the last trash of the week. Starting tonight I’ll be offline for a whole week, relaxing in rural Minnesota where the word on the river is that cell phones don’t work, not even global Blackberries. So exciting!

everydaytrash: What is a Trashnami? How did you collect the materials for this installation?

Holleman: The TRASHNAMI! is a giant cresting wave of garbage.
For it’s previous incarnation as a FUTURE MOUNTAIN (a 360 degree rendering of a mountain range in garbage bags), I had my “community” of people collect their shopping bags normally and give me the tornado of bags that everyone normally gathers under their kitchen sink. I collected for about 7 months, including my own bags.

For TRASHNAMI!, I actually added in blues and greens that were purchased with money budgeted for the show. I also created stickers for the left over bags and handed them out as freebees.

everydaytrash: How do politics play out in your work?
Holleman: My work is political in that is places a premium on real information about our world and our lives and the true consequences of our lifestyle and culture. I use art to address issues and if not solve them, show them in their true light, so that hopefully, no one can turn away and pretend that how their singular lives are is the truth of the world as it is right now. Just because we are here and temporary unscathed does not mean we are safe, innocent, or unaffected for long. Just ask people in New Orleans. My work is political in that is places a premium on real information about our world and our lives and the true consequences of our lifestyle and culture. I use art to address issues and if not solve them, show them in their true light, so that hopefully, no one can turn away and pretend that how their singular lives are is the truth of the world as it is right now. Just because we are here and temporary unscathed does not mean we are safe, innocent, or unaffected for long. Just ask people in New Orleans.
everydaytrash: The title of your show is dated in the near future and refers to our changing world. That, coupled with the image of a “trashnami” gives the sense of impending doom. Do you see trash as an immediate threat to our way of life?
Holleman: The TRASHNAMI! isn’t a threat to our way of life, it IS our way of life. Make that distinction please. And it is dire and it is a non-negotiable fact. See this, please read about the Pacific Garbage Patch. There are now more particulates of small plankton-sized pieces of plastic in the ocean than plankton at some spots. This is coming from scientists who drag plankton nets and then count and sort particulates under microscopes. The way we handle plastic/petroleum/chemicals/poisons/refuse/trash causes global warming, which causes more extreme weather conditions, hence more earhtquakes, tornado, hurricanes and tsunami. We are doing it. WE are doing it.
Photos kindly provided by Holleman

Trashtastic Tuesday with Scott Kellogg

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Scott Kellogg and his partner Stacy Pettigrew are coauthors of “Toolbox for Sustainable Living: A Do it Ourselves Guide“. The book lays out the how-to in creating simple tools out of simple materials so that we, not to be redundant, can live more simply and use up fewer resources. These are tricks and tools the couple has developed and put to use as part of their organization, the Rhizome Collective and which they frequently share in what they call Radical Urban Sustainability Trainings (R.U.S.T.). I saw Scott give a talk on the book in New York recently. His talk emphasized the need for eating locally and making sustainable choices to be more than a green fad. The questions from the audience focused on how hard that can be when one lives in a concrete jungle. Scott was a kind enough to answer a few follow-up questions for a (long overdue) Trashtastic Tuesday interview.

everydaytrash: What is radical sustainability?

Kellogg: Radical Sustainability” is a term that we came up with at the Rhizome Collective to reclaim the term sustainability that has been all but entirely co-opted by multinational corporations to promote the neo-liberal economic agenda. The original idea of sustainability is that renounces should be available to innumerable numbers of human generations and should be equitably distributed as well. Radical sustainability emphasizes the relationship between environmental sustainability and social justice. It’s not enough to just be green, but to be a good environmental steward you have to look at race and class and equity…that’s it in a nutshell.

everydaytrash: What are some of the sustainable living tools you have created out of trash?

Kellogg: We’ve treated household wastewater with tossed bathtubs—those are items generally found in the trash. We’ve also made passive solar water heaters out of junk refrigerators and old hot water heating tanks. We’ve constructed wind turbines out of recycled bike parts. We try to really look at how we can [build sustainable living tools] using cheap, salvaged and recycled materials. If you’re looking at what’s local and abundant in cities: that’s trash.

everydaytrash: What can people living in cities can do (particularly those like me who have no roof access and no backyard) to lead more sustainable lives?

Kellogg: First, worm boxes can be just a simple little plastic box to keep red wigglers, a variety of worm that can eat a pretty good portion of household kitchen scraps. They don’t smell, don’t take up hardly any space and can be expanding modularly by adding boxes. The castings created by the worms are fabulous for gardens. Even if you don’t have a garden, you can give them to a friend.

Another thing I recommend in cities is growing edible, miniscule mushrooms on logs…this can be done in apartments that don’t get a lot of direct light.

everydaytrash: What kinds of big-picture policy things can people do?

Kellogg: I encourage people to organize with neighbors and interested people to gain access to vacant lots. There’s a lot of space in cities that can be turned into food producing spaces. A lot can be done terms of policy. If we’re going to talk seriously about bringing resources closer to cities, this is what needs to happen.

Photos ripped from the Rhizome Collective site

Trashtastic Tuesday with Andy Sarjahani

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

As you may recall, students at Virgina Tech recently removed trays from their cafeteria to see if they could reduce the amount of food waste they produced.  The results, as reported by the fabulous garblog Wasted Food, are in and the news is good: a 29% reduction!  Andy Sarjahani, VT’s dietetic intern, was kind enough to share this presentation on the study (please seek his permission directly before using any part of it) and to answer a few questions here.   Bon appetit!

everydaytrash: What sparked the food waste inquiry at Virginia Tech?

Sarjahani: This was my final project for my Virginia Tech dietetic internship for my “Food Service” segment of the internship. VT is seeking to become more sustainable while avoiding the notorious road of “green-washing” that has become so very common since this whole movement was triggered.

The project more or less mushroomed into this whole quixotic adventure throughout the 6 weeks it took to organize and implement. Initially, VT Dining wanted to phase out all of its styrofoam/plastic “to-go” dishware in favor of their compostable counterparts. Obviously, it doesn’t make much sense for one to dish out the extra money for compostables if one does not plan to compost them! So, the next step was to find a way to get all of this composted. I then had the blessing of crossing paths with PME Compost, LLC, a local composting facility that was looking to expand its business. PME sought to pursue a truly large-scale operation and this was/is ideal for VT Dining…and incredibly timely to say the least. I wanted to give PME an idea of how much compostable waste they’d be dealing with per certification codes and other bureacratic riff-raff so I decided the only true way to attain an inkling of accuracy from such a gargantuan food-service operation was to choose the facility with the largest waste (explained in the attached PowerPoint) and go to work. It became quite apparent to me that a beautiful opportunity was given to me: obtain stats to ignite the commencement of a composting initiative while simultaneously forging an food waste advocacy campaign.

I have an intense passion for all things sustainability – namely food systems, as that’s where I’ve elected to hone my professional skills – and this proved to be quite a serendipitous connection.

everydaytrash: What have you found so far (and do you think its representative of campuses across the country)?

Sarjahani: I’ll list them bulleted-point style as that will hopefully present some clarity between the variance of the issues at hand.

  • Trays are not necessarily the problem. The whole “tray v. trayless” issue is merely a symptom of the true root of the problem. I highly doubt that the most brilliant debater on this planet could make a case for “all you can eat” facilities given the present issues our planet faces. “All you can eat” contributes to obesity, financial loss, global warming, food waste, and further stimulates an already inherent attitude of entitlement in America. I am of the opinion that the epidemic of entitlement leading to gluttony and waste is indeed widespread in the United States.
  • I’ve also found that ranking systems do not take into account the issue of waste. Virginia Tech is currently rated #1 in the area of Dining Services by the Princeton Review. Upon further probing, I discovered that this ranking is based on only one question that can be answered electronically via the World Wide Web. This question is broken down into a few categories (service, taste, etc) and no mention is made of waste. Furthermore, the College Sustainability report card does not take waste into account. Rather, the CS report card simply focuses on if waste is composted or fed to swine. No mention of preventing waste or diverting waste to food banks is ever made to my knowledge. Composting still requires fossil fuel for pick-up, transportation, turning of compost piles, packaging of compost, and then finally delivery. The most sustainable option is to have as little waste as possible and then diverting what is edible and sanitary to food banks and shelters.

What’s next?

Sarjahani: I am currently apprenticed on a grass-based, sustainable livestock farm in upstate New York – Sap Bush Hollow Farm and working with one of the farm’s partners, Shannon Hayes, PhD (Sustainable Agriculture/Community Development) to create awareness in the area of sustainable agriculture. I am also pursuing the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Society Policy Fellowship in an effort to obtain funding to further advocate for two issues very close to my heart:

1) Food waste and its effects on hunger, the environment, and society

2) The dire need to re-connect with our food and where it comes from and the tremendous need for us young folks to enter the profession of farming if we are to have food security.


P.S.  I realize it’s Wednesday, but didn’t want to loose the alliterative effect!

Trashtastic Thursday with Samir M’kadmi

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Samir M'kadmi

Norway-based, French-raised, Tunisian-born artist Samir M’kadmi is perhaps the only man international and open-minded enough to have curated the trash art show, seminar and catalog “Recycling the Looking Glass“. As you are well aware by now, due to my constant raving since returning, the show opening was a huge success. Despite the demands of a crazy schedule putting on international exhibitions and keeping up with work of his own, Samir kindly agreed to provide everydaytrash readers with a bit more depth on the making of the Oslo show and where trash art falls in the art historical cannon.

everydaytrash: How did the concept for “Recycling the Looking Glass” come about?

M’kadmi : “Recycling the looking-glass” is a result of research and interrogations on topics related to contemporary art, our environment, and global society. Through “Recycling the looking-glass” I tried to re-conceptualise crucial interrogations of globalisation, environmental and cultural issues by resituating these topics not only at an aesthetic level, but also by interrogating and exposing their ethical dimension. These interrogations also occupy a major place in our Norwegian media debates. Of course, these kinds of topics are not specific to Norway. They are global. But, the way these issues are addressed, in Europe, Scandinavia and specifically here in Norway, through our major media, is quite disturbing.

In fact, we can summarise the debate in a few terms: Islamophobia, racism, poverty, immigration, war and terrorism, climate and environmental changes. The first six topics relate to globalisation, cultural and geopolitical domination matters, where concepts such as cleanliness and purity are very often used as metaphors for “our” Western culture and values, and uncleanliness and impurity as metaphors for the “other’s” culture and values. Although this point of view does not reflect the opinion of the majority of Norwegians, it does reflects the opinion of about 17.5 percent of Norwegian voters, which approximately corresponds with the number of voters for the Progress Party (the extreme right).

This point of view, the “other” perceived as a threat, as impurity, as trash, seems also to be the only means of access into the media debate. This is a debate initiated and defined by the editors of the major national newspapers, such as the conservative Aftenposten.

Climate and the environment are tightly linked to the first topics. Here again, the interrogation seems to be blocked between two points of views, one that supports the UN Climate Report and another that opposes it. Here again we find the same political constellation. On the one hand, we have the extreme right, (the Progress Party), which tends to reduce the climate report to a big hoax, on the other hand we find the other political parties who swear by the report and propose some cosmetic environmental solutions. The aim of this debate is how to reduce the discharge of toxic emissions. In short, waste, as toxic emissions, as household or industrial trash, seems to be a common denominator for globalisation, climate change, environmental, and cultural issues. How do contemporary artists deal with these questions? Do they deal with these questions at all? What can artists tell us about trash, recycling, reducing and reusing? Does trash or decay have any aesthetic value? What is the relationship between archiving and trashing? These are just a few of the questions that contributed to the elaboration of the concept behind “Recycling the looking-glass”.

Artist Jan Franciscus de Gier discusses the Euro pallets he and partner Vigdis Haugtrø contributed to the show with a Nowegian artist attending the opening

How did you select the participating artists?

M’kadmi :
Selecting the artists for “Recycling the looking-glass” was tightly bound to the development of the exhibition concept itself. It is a work in progress, and a complicated process because it demands a lot of research, especially if you want to articulate simultaneously different approaches and practices in the same context. Every artist represents a unique and at the same time complex position. When you present artworks made by different artists, side by side, you create not only an opportunity to investigate the artworks, and question the artists behind them, you also provide an occasion to confront your own presuppositions and ideas on art, trash and society.

everydaytrash: One question raised at the seminar was what is the line between art and politics and is there a definable border. What do you think?

M’kadmi : I consider the artist to be an intellectual and a political subject. There is no line between art and life. Art is life, art is science, art is philosophy, art is poetry, and art is politics… The French philosopher Jacques Ranciere describes the political subject, among other things, as a non-static entity and a vector of change. He or she only exists through their actions, through their capacity to change the given landscape, to make visible, to show what was hidden or not perceivable. The political subject opens up the political field through his/her activities, beyond the parameters of all known and accepted political institutions.

We are, everywhere, confronted by interests and ideologies that tend to reduce the artist only to a producer of commodities, rejecting any thoughts and ideas that are not compatible with the idea of the artwork as an open creation, and the idea of the work of art as an object. Utility value is, and has always been, a key theme in an art context, in particular if one eradicates the distinction between the ethical and the aesthetic, as did e.g. Marcel Duchamp with his Fountain in 1917. I situate art’s utility value in its freedom and independence, in its autonomy. In short, the political subject exists as the effective manifestation of the capacity of anyone to personally engage in common affairs.

Duchamp's "Fountain"

everydaytrash: What is the connection between found object and trash art?

M’kadmi : Trash art is an art form that insists on a status as waste. Found objects on the other hand, cling tightly to the identity of the object. Found objects are, as the name indicates, a found object, “un objet trouvé”. It is an object that has retained its integrity but has been removed from its original context.

Schwitters' "Cherry Picture"

Dadaism and the Surrealists attacked High Art by introducing elements from reality in their works. Kurt Schwitters created art from “ détritus”, “l’art du détritus”. Marcel Duchamp’s readymade gave another dimension to “L’object trouvé”: appropriation, ‘détournement’, subversion, etc.
From Dadaism to Surrealism, to Pop Art, and Situationism to Fluxus and Nouveau Realism and today’s post-modern Trash art and Found objects, we find here many enthralling issues and discourses, both aesthetic as well as socio-political. Trash art questions received aesthetic conventions.

Junk is a powerful medium that must be given an artistic design: Robert Rauschenberg, César, Ben, J.Beuys, David Hammons, Jimmie Durham…The boundary between trash art and found objects is not watertight.

Kjartan Slettemark’s Cocaflower is trash, because an empty Coca Cola can is by definition empty packaging, in other words, trash, recyclable material. South African Willie Bester’s horrifying sculptures of recycled metals that depict cold uniformed giants riding ridiculous war machines are trash, because the objects used in the construction appear as junk. Benin artist Romuald Hazoumé’s African masks made of plastic containers and other garbage strike similar chords. Roddy Bell’s fans and frames are found objects because they are perceived as fans and frames. Safaa Erruas’ pillowcases and shoes are representations of found objects; Jon Gundersen’s briefcase with a pacifier is both a found object and trash, because it combines both. Vigdis Haugtrø and Jan Franciscus de Gier’s Europallets painted with rosemaling are modified found objects; Bill Morrison’s film clip compositions are found footage …

Work by Bester

Work by Hazoumé

“Recycling the looking-glass” publication

(Recycling the Looking Glass-Trash Art-Found Object)

everydaytrash: How does trash art fit into the canon of accepted and appreciated media? What is the future of trash art?

M’kadmi :
In our global art history, a history that is not yet written, Trash art is already an integrated genre. Trash, both as raw material and sign, has a major place in our global contemporary art. Many artworks made of trash are already canonised.

But, in spite of this canonisation Trash remains a “hot” matter because it often entails an implicit, if not explicit, critique of society. For the artist, trash is not solely signs, symptoms, markers, evidence and indicators of interpersonal experience and the various different existential foundations of all humans, but a signifying material for communication and expression.

Asking about the future of Trash art is like asking about our future relation to waste and all that is refused, denied, is in a way asking about our future relation to death.

Samir and Nasra at the opening

Trashtastic Tuesday with Donna Conlon

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

As promised, here’s a bit more detail on the wonderful trash art I encountered in Norway a week and a half ago. Donna Conlon, an American artist living in Panama, has been a trash artist for years. I saw her videos for the first time at the Recycling the Looking Glass-Trash Art-Found Object seminar before the show opened. Conlon gave an artist’s talk and showed some of her amazing video projects. She was also kind enough to answer some questions for Trashtastic Tuesday. Check out her answers and Web site, where much of her work with trash can be perused.

Summer Breeze

(Video still of Summer Breeze, one of Donna Conlon’s pieces shown in Oslo)

everydaytrash: What are trash trees?

Conlon: they are urban trees which have become “useful” as places to dispose of waste. i discovered them walking around in my neighborhood in Panama City then spent some months photographing them to document the phenomenon. i was just totally intrigued with the fastidiousness they represent – the impulse to put trash SOMEWHERE, and this becomes a very creative solution as the trash is usually placed very deliberately and often with a keen eye for form. i also think they speak to the conflicted nature of our relationship with other living things – we appreciate them with respect to their usefulness to us (more so than for their absolute value).


(“Papitas” photo by Donna Conlon)

everydaytrash: At the seminar, you were asked about the link between politics and activism. Do you see your work as political? Did it become more political over time?

Conlon: political, yes. overtly activist, no. there are much more effective venues for activism. but like i said, if someone’s perspective or actions change as a result of my work, that represents an activist element that i have played, even though it is not my primary intention (and i am happy about it because it indicates successful communication which i am very interested in). my primary intention is to make good art and to stay engaged in the world around me by exploring it, observing and critiquing it. i make work

about things/situations in the world i find intriquing or puzzling – the political content reflects my personal preocupations.

Plastic river installation

(Photo of “100% Pure,” an installation of a waterfall Conlon constructed from plastic water bottles)

everydaytrash: What drew you to video?

Conlon: the realization that it was more interesting (to me) to not “transform” found objects into something else, but rather to analyze their inherent properties and let them tell us something about ourselves. then video became a way to stay in the discovery moment, to show the actual habitat of the found object (trash being the ultimate found object).

Panama City skyline

everydaytrash: Who are your trash art inspirations?

Conlon: i came to using trash in art via the trash, not other artists. i’m an opportunist who uses things that are available in my everyday life, and there just happens to be a lot of trash out there available. that said, if i think about other people who have one way or another used trash in their work, i hold Merle Ukeles in utmost esteem.


Trashtastic Tuesday with Frieso Boning

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Tuesday comes early this week as I pack up for a wee hiatus. This week we check in Frieso Boning, the trashy mastermind behind The Winnipeg Trash Museum (first garblogged by Visible Trash).


everydaytrash: The Winnipeg Trash Museum has been described alternately as a grant proposal, art exhibit, dream, myth and reality. How would you describe what it is exactly?

Boning: The Winnipeg Trash museum is all of these things. Let me describe it exactly. It was first an idea. A simple little idea combining a love of the abused and used, the lost, the discarded and the abandoned with a love of THE MUSEUM – ( use any dictionary definition). The Winnipeg Trash Museum then became a grant proposal and failed as such on two different occasions, much to the consternation of many, including a financially strapped artist. With the moral and financial support of ACE ART, Winnipeg’s premiere artist run co-operative the work was finally realized as an art exhibit. The exhibition took about three years to develop and put together. It was exhibited from September 13 to October 13, 2007 at ACE ART in Winnipeg. So the dream of creating an exhibit about creating the Trash Museum Project was realized. But what about the museum? What about the dream? Well if I had a million dollars for every positive comment I had about the show and its content and meaning, we’d be breaking the ground for the museum tomorrow. The reality is that the Winnipeg Trash Museum has become, in many senses, mythical in its proportions. It now exists solely in the minds and hearts of all the people who attended the exhibit and the vision lives on in every bit of debris and piece of garbage that is noticed on a sidewalk, street or field, and then imagined upon.


everydaytrash: How did you first become interested in trash and what got you started on this project?

Boning: I have had a lifelong interest in trash and garbage and this interest has, throughout my career, found its way into my practice. Back in 1983 I constructed a series of sculptures made up entirely of garbage. The works were called “Animals of the City” and the works, when completed, were returned to the streets to be discovered and possibly recovered or simply not noticed. That’s one early example. Fast Forward. The Winnipeg Trash Museum‘s origin was inspired by two things that, when connected, became the project. The first inspirational element was my interest in the architectural competition for the design of our city’s proposed Museum of Human Rights and a strange desire I had to build my own museum. At about the same time, in the early spring of 2005, I began collecting little bits of garbage and debris that emerged from the melting snow. What broke things open was seeing the form a building in a collected pile of junk. I recognized it as a museum. A museum about Trash.


everydaytrash: While many artists who deal with issues of waste and consumption stick to the serious side of the subject matter, your work seems to employ a lot of satire. Is trash inherently funny?

Boning: Some people felt I had my “tongue firmly planted in my cheek”, and that I was primarily interested in sending up, not just environmentalism and serious museological practice, but also the proposed new museum of human rights. Some people thought of the idea as benignly quixotic and that I was just plain crazy. None of this is true. I knew from the start that this project was going to be a hard sell. So I employed an often subversive humorous and satirical stance to make my voice heard, to communicate the more sensitive and meaningful things that underlie the Trash Museum project. Trash is not inherently funny to me. I see it as a subject that can be examined in any number of ways: scientifically, sociologically, psychologically, historically, culturally and even poetically. I am most interested in the bathos and pathos of trash. You have only to take a long look at the “Children of the Landfill” or Ann Lawler’s “If Combs Could Speak” to understand.


Photos generously provided by Boning

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