Contemplating Consumption

Oct 20, 2022

What do you think of when you think of "waste"?

Sometimes, it's not even garbage, it's just "stuff". And we have a lot of it. Ontarians, like most Canadians, throw away far more waste per capita than most people on Earth. [1]

Because it's officially Waste Reduction Week and the first-ever Circular Economy Month, we encourage you to be mindful of everything you throw out. One creative way to do this is to document it. Take a cue from our customer, Annette: as a professional in the waste management field, Annette has photographed waste from all over the world."I enjoy capturing photos of waste for a couple of reasons," says Annette, "it is always around us and in our lives, but it is also something that takes a lot of resources to manage and to get out of our lives...My hope is that these photos will help make people think about waste in a new way and be more aware of the impacts of waste in the environment."


Couch Potato. Black Creek, Smythe Park, Toronto. 

“A common object in an uncommon place, already altered by humans, somehow seemed well placed to take in our impact on nature and the environment.”

Growing Litter. Front Yard, Toronto.

“While cleaning up litter in my front yard and looking at an existing dried flower the litter objects I was picking up inspired me to make [a flower] to illustrate the growing issue of plastic litter in our streets and public spaces.”

Egret Regret. Humber River, South of Old Mill, Toronto. 

“While kayaking on the Humber I was lucky enough to capture this beautiful bird in a pose where they almost seemed to be reflecting in some way. I thought about the feelings we can have related to consumerism and reflecting on how our choices extend beyond our immediate gratification.”

 Glass, plastic and... Recycling Facility, Toronto Area

 “Many people think glass can easily be recycled. In today's recycling systems it can be challenging to recover materials and to make them into a feedstock for new materials. It’s important to reduce waste where we can, reuse and when we recycle, to do it right.”  

It keeps going and going and going. Playa Conchal, Brasilito, Costa Rica

 “Every morning on vacation I would go and pick up plastic waste along the beach. When I found this plastic toy soldier, I thought about where it could have come from, and how long it was at sea and shore, to have its arms worn away…how long would it keep going, if I did not pick it up? Was it [at sea] longer than it was ever enjoyed as an actual toy?”

Instrumental Beauty. Front Yard, Toronto

 “The beauty from within the piano made me think about the artistry, design and years of skilled craftsmanship that went into quality products designed for longevity. Sometimes we are too quick to discard things in our lives. This piano was out at the curb for days, I think it was eventually collected as garbage.”

One line one wire, many welcomes. Oregon Trailhead

“A wire used to make a line drawing portrait to welcome hikers onto the trailhead. 


While we all know about the "3Rs" (reduce, reuse, recycle), for the last 40 years, we've been focusing on what should be the last step. Ontario has been trying to divert waste from landfill, but our systems just can't keep up. Our top Un-Recycling, designed by local artist Suhmer Hyatt, explores why: recycling and the blue-bin have provided us with a ‘social-license’ to create more waste.

Un-Recycling was partially inspired by the "Beyond the Blue Box" report by Dianne Saxe (the former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario), which says:

For most Ontarians and most materials, it remains cheaper to buy new stuff, use it briefly and then throw it away than to reuse those resources...This substantial obstacle is due partly to culture and habit, partly to government policy, and partly to the high cost of labour in comparison to the cost of materials...Despite ambitious targets and seemingly widespread recycling, diversion rates have stagnated and the mountain of waste continues to grow. One factor is just how much we consume. [2]

Finally, the tides are starting to turn in favour of reducing consumption/waste and reusing existing materials. For example, "Waste Reduction Week" launched in 2001 with a focus on recycling and has now been extended into "Circular Economy Month", because, according to the Circular Innovation Council, "educating Canadians on this new model of consumption involves more than just one week".  

Please take some time to reflect on your own consumption, and notice even the tiniest details of the waste it creates.

[1], [2] Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. (October 2017). Beyond The Blue Box Ontario's Fresh Start on Waste Diversion and the Circular Economy.
[3] Association of Municipalities Ontario. (Accessed October 19 2022). Municipal Elections