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ConceptEuropeCreative portraits: What will remain after me by Irina Heinz

Creative portraits, I decided to make a generalized “consumer portrait”, using the garbage of heroes as a metaphor. First, I took pictures of the garbage itself and made masks from photographs. Then I shot masked heroes and talked to them about consumerism and the waste problem. Is there a problem?
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ISSUE 10 / DEADLINE: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2019
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It is terrible to disappear – I want to leave a mark. Something weighty, eternal. Is it possible? The world has become a supermarket; things are disposable, people are consumers.

Our main ability is purchasing. Everyone dreams of developing this talent. Is not it so? To afford even more. Humanity annually produces more than 2 billion tons of waste. It seems that we leave behind only trash. The irony is that it is immortal.

I decided to make a generalized “consumer portrait”, using the garbage of heroes as a metaphor. First, I took pictures of the garbage itself and made masks from photographs. Then I shot masked heroes and talked to them about consumerism and the waste problem. Is there a problem?

Danila, 16

Plastic bags, expanded polystyrene, foil plastic, tetra packs, thermal film, green glass, metal cover, polypropylene packaging, high-density polyethylene, napkin, unmarked plastic, cotton fiber, a slice of ice cream

I could take part in the Fridays For Future, ​but for me, it is more critical to agitate for more rational consumption of my friends. I am worried about the incredible amount of plastic, which is becoming more and more. I did not know that there is a whole island of garbage in the ocean. And that microplastic penetrates the habitat – we ourselves already feed on it. If a man really considers himself the master of nature, on the contrary, he should treat everything responsibly.

My family produces a lot of garbage. ​When father also noticed this he supported my initiative to collect plastic bottles separately in order to hand them over for recycling. But he doesn’t collect them by himself.

I prefer seconds and using clothes for a long time. ​It has long been a tradition in the family that we give away unnecessary things. It’s rare that we just throw out clothes. Very old things can be used in everyday life.

Valeriy, 32

Foil plastic, cardboard, paper, laminated cardboard, banana peel, hair

Everyone wants to be happy. ​There are thousands of ways. Consumption is the worst, but the simplest and most common. In addition, it is advertised everywhere: “Buying this little thing will give you joy!”

Theoretically, I could change my habits, practically – not now. ​Yes, it seems to me that these are such stupid excuses! But I can not. I don’t have enough time and energy. Of course, I understand perfectly well what is good and what is bad. But great efforts are needed.

I live in a communal apartment, and I can’t scatter a separated waste throughout my room ​– this is the only room. I need a whole cupboard so as not to see it all the time. I am a very anxious person, to raise my level of anxiety more is to shoot myself.

Catherine, 41

Foil plastic, unmarked plastic, thermal film, stretch film, paper with plastic lamination, laminated cardboard, orange peel

3-4 years have passed since my first waste sorting. ​Since last summer, we began to compost organic matter and export it to the country. In winter, we do not compost – organics goes to the trash. This is mom’s area of responsibility. She read that not everything should be put in compost. For example, cherry pits and citrus fruits.

Sometimes I allow myself concessions: take chips or ice cream in non-recyclable packaging.

The garbage in the picture accumulated shockingly for a week and a half – I took apart the box, took the Labyrinth apart [Ekaterina goes to the company’s pick-up point near her place and picks up the used packaging film for waste sorting, the barcodes are cut off. – note], prepared for the action “Waste Sorting” – in general, threw off everything that is cannot be recycled. Some people look at me as I’m a holy fool because they don’t understand what for I spend so much effort. But in nature there is biodiversity – I try to treat people the same way.

When someone says that he alone cannot influence anything, this is a defensive reaction and infantilism. ​It’s just that this is not his priority and area of responsibility. When something has sense for you, the “I haven’t got enough place, I have no time” does not exist. I am glad that at least some initiatives have appeared in our information field. If the government begins to pay attention to the waste problem, it means that we don’t focus just on survival, but pretend to have the future and prospects.

Larisa, 49

Tetra packs, non-woven synthetic fabric, PVC, cardboard with lamination, plastic bags, plant leaf

In the spring we went to the forest near the house every day for two months. ​Went with bags to collect garbage. In the summer, the schedule went astray. Now we started again. I went into the forest and was horrified: “I can’t take all this away.” I tried, and then my hands dropped. Even with children, it’s not possible to collect everything. Just yesterday I cleaned along the road. So what? Already fresh trash. I want to hang signs in places where people like to drink alcohol in the forest. But not just “Do not litter here”, but something that comes to mind. Maybe scare them by scouts? Fines? Curse?

Now at home, we began to stack batteries and bulbs separately. ​I try not to throw out the paper – either we burn it in the stove or in a fire. When it is possible to take waste paper at children’s school, we hand it over. We are not sorting plastic and glass yet. It hurts the soul that the glass is thrown away. But so far I haven’t developed an algorithm of how it can be passed. If there were containers near the house, I would love to use it.

You start with yourself, you have a family, children, friends whom you can influence ​by telling, setting an example. If you change your consumer habits in the family, then your children will already live differently. In any case, you always start with yourself. You cannot start changing others without changing yourself first.

Valentine, 86

Rags, foil plastic, cardboard, polyethylene, coffee, plant elements

I live alone – I have small needs. ​It makes no sense to keep a bin, I collect everything in a small plastic bag, and the next day I throw it out on the way to the store. If there is something perishable, for example, fish paring, then I immediately take it out.

I don’t take large plastic packages at all. ​Here is one in my pocket – I go with it until it breaks. Older people are considering this issue economically. For each package, you need to pay 2-4 rubles.

But I’m not because of savings – it’s just irrational. What sense to buy if you need to throw it in a minute? And it’ll be taken to a landfill.

The garbage issue is important, but we need to influence people. ​More advertising, clarifications. On TV, they don’t talk about it, but how will the people find out? Someone on the Internet will partially grab a piece of information. That’s it. The only thing is if the people are indignant as in Shies, and they can’t hide it anymore. They have to talk a lot: about landfills, about illegal ones, about the need to build infrastructure. I think that under the current government there will be no changes.

Kseniya, 22

Foil plastic, Funmarked plastic, non-woven synthetic fabric, wire, napkins, cardboard with plastic lamination, paper

I do not like the word “consumerism”, even when it is used in an allegedly positive context. For example, conscious consumerism. To consume means to take. You take and do nothing further.

I ask a few questions in the field of ecology. ​I know that I am not doing enough and can do better, but I find myself a thousand excuses. At the same time, I can blame parents: they do not understand that a slightly soiled bag can be washed, not thrown away. When my mother found out that I had been accumulating waste for two months (for waste sorting), she was horrified: “They stink, what kind of dump do you live at?” I said that everything is washed, and she: “What ?! Do you also wash it? ”It was something, she didn’t understand at all – another paradigm. They do not know about the plastic influence, what harm it makes, that it decomposes for hundreds of years.

I stopped buying clothes – on the contrary, I put it in second-hand stores. ​Now I have everything I need, and shopaholism is not for me. Some friends save up money to buy something: fancy jacket, sneakers. My shoes are 7 years old, I wear a grandmother’s jacket and I feel comfortable – I feel good about it. If I really need something, I’ll buy it. Actually it’s weird, I always liked the clothes, go shopping. Now my coordinate system has changed.

Sergey, 62

Cardboard, plastic bags, unmarked plastic, paper with plastic lamination, foil plastic, polypropylene, paper, sausage casing

I’ve known all my life that areas for garbage are allocated, and this is normal. ​I believed that it was impossible to invent or create another decision. But now it turns out that even in our country, with its enormous areas, a problem has appeared.

A year ago, my family thought about what was happening – we began to sort the waste and saw what kind of footprint we were leaving. ​Two or three months pass before waste is transported to the collection point – it occupies a separate room. To take it out, you need to load a jeep to the eyeballs, about a hundred kilograms. A sea of plastic, baby milk bottles. Two or three people produce that amount – isn’t it a nightmare? When you load everything into a car, you experience negative feelings from the thoughts that you are doing with the planet. Then some satisfaction comes when you see the line of volunteers, you are charged with positive energy. People come with small bags – probably put away separated waste more often. And you need fifteen minutes to get rid of all the bags that your son carries out of the car.

Am I ready to change my consumer habits? Not, I’m not. ​The motive to keep the peace, to enable other generations to live in normal conditions, is fair. But it can’t overcome the habits of buying and consuming here and now. Rather, the motive for struggling for your health, when it is already critical. No one is even interested in the fact that we are sitting on nuclear bombs. We have nearby ballistic missiles crawling along the roads, blocking them. In 15 minutes there may be no world! How come we can think of saving it for future generations? It is not known how much time we have – no way I will think that it’s not worth buying myself an extra ice cream.

Kseniya, 25

Rubber glove, synthetic sponge, stretch film, unmarked plastic, laminated cardboard, leftovers, shrimps peelings, hair

I hate throwing food away. ​Sometimes the food goes bad anyway, and I’m very sad. I try to buy as much as I really eat. My boyfriend even thought that I had a small salary and don’t have enough money to buy more. He said: “Do not be shy, Ksyusha, I will pay.” There was even a quarrel: I bought eggs, some kind of fruit. I thought I would cook some fried eggs, cut a cucumber, drink some coffee. For me, it’s breakfast. He was very upset – he decided that I did not want him to stay since I had not bought food. I just do not take extra.

Consumption is substitution of values, substitution of real needs. ​For example, everyone wants to be loved. And a person thinks that they will love him if he dresses cool. Or they will respect him if he has a lot of cars.

I’m disappointed that in my country there is no such thing as care. Including care about ecology. ​I don’t understand why the government doesn’t care at all? The initiative comes from people, not from the authorities, and this is a disgrace. There is simply no official way of sorting the waste. Why is education accessible to everyone, but the opportunity not to pollute your own home is not available? Some kind of absurdity. In order not to litter, you must make such an effort! I don’t get on the ‘Waste Sorting’ volunteer campaign. So I go to take my waste to IKEA – and thanks to the Swedes I feel like a normal person. Although not everything can be given away.

Marina, 28

Unmarked plastic, plastic mix packaging, thermal paper, fish paring, shells, peach, carrots, glove

Once I threw out the food and realized that the bucket had just been completely empty, and now it is full. ​And it covered me: I just created a garbage bin. I weighed the bag in my hand, I realized that it was a lot, next second I made a decision: from tomorrow we don’t do that anymore. “Waste Sorting” campaigns were just next to me. Later I realized that washing the packaging is not scary and not difficult. You just know that it needs to be done. I have been doing this for almost two years.

I remember how I handed over bottles in childhood. ​Not because there was no money, but because it is normal. Parents and grandmother told how they got something in the store only in their own packaging. That is, it was necessary to keep this in mind: you are not just going to the store, but taking everything you need with you. There were no plastic bags at all, they were expensive. Grandfather washed, dried and then used them again. Therefore, when a free market appeared in the 90s, an euphoria began: finally, we can stop washing and saving, just consume.

Automatism is a very scary thing. He is in everything. In attitude to people, yourself, to everything. ​We take everything for granted, we don’t feel the limbs. Everything is easy to receive, we treat each other as a resource. But any resource can end, cease to be accessible to everyone, become more expensive. The climate is changing and it really bothers me. Even 10 years ago, everything was different. These are very quick changes. And if they are already happening so quickly, then everything will only be faster. Everything can really end sadly and tragically. For us. Not even for grandchildren.

Alexander, 30

Polypropylene packaging, tetra pack, high-density polyethylene, polystyrene jar, cardboard, foil, unmarked plastic

In 2012, the professor who was connected with the environmental topic told me about the city dump. Which, by the way, I could observe from the window of my apartment – it was high. He said that by 2020 the landfill would be so huge, and the amount of methane so high that any spark can lead to disaster. Frankly, it didn’t affect me. In my city, first of all, the problem was not with sorting, but with the fact that garbage was not taken out from some areas at all.

People who start with themselves change others. ​For example, Chistomen is a man in a green mask from Chelyabinsk who arranges waste cleanings. He inspired many people to do the same. Of course, cleaning is not a solution. But in Russian society, this is already very good and right.

Personally, I’m not ready for a waste sorting. Just not ready. I don’t want to do this now. ​I am one of those people who will start when there is normal infrastructure and regulations. I think this is the right way. I don’t think about what I leave behind. And if I think about it, it will not change anything in my head, honestly. I only worry about green spaces in an urban environment. To be honest, I am not concerned about the sea, not the mountains, but only the city. Since this is the environment in which I live.

Kseniya, 31

Paper, paper napkins, thermal paper, multilayer glued cardboard, plastic mix packaging, cardboard with plastic lamination, unmarked plastic

When I don’t throw something away, I say to myself: “This is good.” ​But, to be honest: what will the bottle that I didn’t throw away change? Nothing. Of course, if billions of people are not thrown away the waste, this will change a lot. But everyone thinks only of himself.

I tell my colleagues: “Pour coffee into reusable mug.” ​And they don’t understand how come “paper” cups are harmful. That is, people do not even guess. Take a piece of paper and dunk in the water. What is happening? It is soaking. So how can a paper cup hold liquid for hours? There is a plastic film inside. I don’t mean that people are dumb, they just don’t want to think. Everything goes to simplification. Technology thinks for us and does everything.

I am sad that people cannot change their instincts. Can’t stop eating. ​Maybe for now. I hope that someday they will come up with something and we will not need food or will have it in a different form. Then we will stop buying. Someone will ask: “But what about variety and taste?” The fact that the fruit is sweet has not led anyone to good. Adam and Eve too. They are the first consumers. And the snake – the marketer – seduced, lured an apple.

Tatyana, 59

Polystyrene, napkins, diaper, paper with plastic lamination, polyethylene, foil plastic, coffee, melon peel, cherry pits, dead plant

When we were in school, huge areas stood out for the collection of waste paper and metal.

Any snags from the streets were handed over. Sometimes from construction sites, we could even bring what was needed. Because of the competition between classes – you want to win. Everyonesnooped around collective farms, fields, pits and collected scrap metal. And in everyday life, we only had metal cans, but we adapted them for storage – nails, buttons, needles. If suddenly a plastic box appeared, then we stored it like the apple of an eye, put it in a prominent place: “What a beautiful plastic box!”

We had a garbage can with water and peelings. And we poured it into a hole in the garden.

There is all rotted by itself. There was no garbage. We handed over glass, metal and waste paper. Plastic bags appeared much later – from behind the hill – thanks. For big money, people brought these bags with advertisements “Marlboro” and “Levi’s”. And we put some bag in these bags so that it would not stretch out. And then “civilization” flooded – the curtain opened and we were shown how to live.

We will reach the point of practical non-return and will quickly begin to improve. ​Another question is whether we succeed. What kind of logic do people have? Why will I be bothered? Bother someone instead, and I’ll think about it. For the conscience of the majority to wake up, one needs either a violent order or to educate a generation that will have a different way of thinking. And what about us? We have one idea – glossy magazines, advertising: this is how you need to look, this is how you need to walk, this you need to buy, this to have. To have, to have, to have. All. And why, for what? Because I deserve it! And everyone is I.



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