Futures of Waste: Photographic Perspectives

Exhibition: 7 September – 7 October 2016, Kerry Packer Civic Gallery, UniSA, Adelaide
Launch: 7.15pm, Thursday 8th September, 2016.


Global urban waste production, estimated at between 7 and 10 billion tonnes a year, is set to double in developing nations within fifteen years. The direct links between waste, pollution and environmental degradation, are well known, with more emphasis being placed by experts on the ‘3 Rs’, that is reduction, reuse and recycling. It is estimated that following these strategies could reduce our global greenhouse gas emissions by 15-20%.

The global economy now depends on a more rapid circulation and disposal of what might be termed ‘post-cautionary’ goods. Many of these are designed to break, or to be wasted prematurely, or have other negative effects on the environment, such as plastic bags which can choke waterways and cause flooding, as well as disease.

Catalogue_sqThe photographs here have been chosen to show this ‘silent’ global problem at all scales, and across many different locations, mostly from our own region. From micro-plastics ingested by plankton, brightly coloured plastic fragments eaten by young seabirds, to the waste mountains created near every city and town across our region, the wastes seen here symbolise our linear ‘make, use and trash’ economy.

While some of these photographs document the environmental destruction created by our waste-making, others focus on the millions of poor people who now make a living from waste-picking and ‘informal’ recycling around the world. This hard life reminds us that waste is not only a form of pollution, but also a source of resources we have failed to use. In fact we now treat waste in ignorance and through established habit as ‘value-less’.

In these photographs we are reminded that waste is an enduring part of the human story, and that it is through waste as well as through pollution that we are now transforming the world through Climate Change. However, these photographs also remind us that there are solutions, in repair, remaking and recycling, in what is now called ‘Circular Economy’, an economy that brings these ‘3 Rs’ from the margins to the centre of our economic life.

The Exhibition is co-presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and Green Industries SA.
Wine and finger food provided.
An exhibition catalogue of selected images and short essays is also available.


Renée C Byer
Brett Cole
Matt Cole
John Devlin (and friends)
Rio Helmi
Chris Jordan
Vaughan Levitzke
Julie Sundberg

With generous support from: