Let’s just admit it; recycling can be a hassle. Making sure your containers are properly cleaned out, sorting materials into the proper bins. It can seem like a hassle. So maybe that’s why, despite growing evidence that the continued production of waste is having devastating results on the environment, that even the most developed countries on the planet still have relatively low rates when it comes to recycling. That’s why one French photographer set out on a five-year long mission to create a campaign that would change the way that the world viewed recycling.
Antoine Repessé is a 37-year-old French photographer based out of Lille, a town near the northern border of France and Belgium. Belgium is half the size of France and has a much smaller population, 58% of Belgians recycle while only 35% of Frenchman do. Though the importance of recycling is well known in most developed countries, Antoine realized that his fellow countrymen and women somehow weren’t getting the urgency. So he devised a plan to communicate that importance in a way that had never been done.
In 2010, Antoine began saving all of his recyclable trash. From shampoo bottles and cardboard toilet paper tubes to empty water bottles and old newspapers, Antoine saved it all. He even enlisted the help of nearly 200 others to collect as much recyclable waste as he could. Four years later, he was finally ready to begin project #365Unpacked.
Antoine used his collection of garbage, which had grown to fill roughly 183 square feet, to craft a photo series that would bring new perspective to the importance of recycling. The garbage was carefully sorted and then meticulously placed in different rooms of various homes. In the middle of the mountains of recyclables were people living their everyday lives. In fact, they appear to be absolutely oblivious to the piles of garbage that seem ready to overtake them.
“We’re often told about the quantity of waste we produce,” Antoine explained when describing the #365Unpacked campaign. “The impact of a picture can be much more powerful than tons of words.” Using his experience as a seasoned photographer and his keen eye for detail, Antoine created scenes where each individual appears to be drowning in their own recyclable waste.
Since its completion, the project has been shared across countless news outlets in Europe, North America, and Asia. Antoine knows that it’s not a pretty picture that he’s painting, but he hopes that the disturbing nature of the images will help awaken people to the ever-growing problem of waste production across the word. But as long as individuals like Antoine remain passionate about recycling and campaigning for sustainable packaging production, hope remains that this mountain of waste might one day begin to shrink.