The World Bank estimates that by 2025, some 6 million tonnes of solid waste will be generated each day around the world — nearly double what’s produced today. By 2100 that number could hit 11 million. A Smithsonian magazine article from 2013 went so far as to ask if we were on the path to “peak garbage.”
New York–based photographer Stephen Mallon brings this issue into focus through a series of photos called “American Reclamation Vol. 1.” Through stunning and often surreal images, Mallon reimagines waste and recycling as fine art.
“There has been a lot of negative press recently about how recycling isn’t working or helping,” says Mallon. “I wanted to feature projects showing recycling in action and how it can help reduce and repurpose waste.”
So, is there hope we’ll start to bend the trash curve down even as global population grows? Reductions in consumption and packaging along with reuse and recycling are the obvious solutions. But we still have a ways to go.
In 2012 in the United States only 35 percent of municipal solid waste was recycled — far behind Austria at 63 percent, which also currently leads Europe.
Mallon plans to continue to bring the intersection of industry and the environment to life through his photos. Future installments in the American Reclamation series will look at the sinking of the USS Arthur W. Radford to create an artificial reef off the coast of Delaware and the repurposing of the Fresh Kills Landfill into a city park on Staten Island in New York.
Stephen Mallon is a New York-based photographer and photojournalist. His work has been viewed at exhibitions around the world, and Communication Arts, Photo District News, The New York Photo Festival, The Lucie Awards, International Color Awards and others have honored his photos. To see more of his work, visit www.stephenmallon.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.