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Our Trash, 2013
video loop 4′

Every other day we throw our garbage into a wooden wheelbarrow sitting in the corner of the complex. Every night in front of the courtyard fence, Leo the guardian burns our waste: food, paper trash, plastic bags, aluminum foil, water bottles, waxed cartons, etc.  Since the local Chinese government does not provide a proper sanitation system in this poor village, should he be burning food, paper and plastic alike or should we not create such trash in the first place?

This video is made of beach balls of garbage floating against a shot from Zanzibar. A young boy singing and dancing on a rock at low tide, sunset. One of the more beautiful things I captured on video against one of the ugliest sights I have seen again and again around the world. Our trash witnessed as mountains of filth overflowing the streets of Beijing.

local recycling dump, Feijiacun village, Beijing

Americans are still way ahead of China in garbage; a population less than a quarter the size of China’s 1.3 billion generated 254 million tons of garbage in 2007, a third of which is recycled or composted, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

But for China, the problem represents a rapid turnabout from a generation ago, when families, then largely rural and poor, used and reused everything.

“Trash was never complicated before, because we (Chinese) didn’t have supermarkets, we didn’t have fancy packaging and endless things to buy,” said Nie. “Now suddenly, the government is panicking about the mountains of garbage piling up with no place to put it all.”

more on ‘As Economy Grows, So Do China’s Garbage Woes’, Associated Press