Intolerable Beauty – Images that will make you rethink waste!

As a consumer, it can be hard to even comprehend the vast quantities of waste that we produce on a daily basis. When you then try to think about the amount of waste that we produce in a month, in a year, or in a decade, it’s really quite tricky to get your head around. Photographer Chris Jordan has been photographing waste for a number of years, creating a series called Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption, designed to show just how wasteful the developed world really is. If you were wondering if we are really that wasteful, the answer is yes, yes we are. That’s why we wanted to share 10 of his most shocking photos, which should most definitely make you rethink what you do with your waste.

1) At first glance, you might think that this is a huge pile of treebark. But it’s actually shredded steel, taken in Tacoma in 2004.

shredded steel

2) We all think that recycling is one of the best things we can do. Although it stops recyclable items from getting thrown into landfills where they could take hundreds or even thousands of years to decompose, there are thousands of recycling centers across the world that are filled to the brim with stuff, like the one shown in the image above. Unless we figure out how to use all of this material, recycling centers are going to end up much the same way as landfill sites. Image taken in Seattle in 2004.

3) This pole yard in Tacoma (image taken in 2004) shows that even hugely versatile materials like wood can end up getting dumped.

4) Can you guess what this is? In this new era of tech you might think that because we can do so much stuff online, waste could be reduced – but the tech itself is the waste in this photo. Taken in New Orleans in 2005.

Upcycled Beauty


5) This photograph of waste glass, taken in Seattle in 2005, shows literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of broken glass. Although glass is completely recyclable and can easily be melted down and upcycled into new products – think the wine bottle that has been melted into a clock, or glass into beautifully colored glass beads – this shows that actually, we keep producing new glass instead of recycling.

6) This photograph of crushed cars was taken in Tacoma in 2004. It’s a shame, because there is so much stuff on and in cars that can be recycled and upcycled. Some of Britain’s up and coming furniture designers have used materials like the seats from an aeroplane to create brand new pieces of furniture and the very same thing could be done with these cars.

7) Who’da thunk that there’d be so many mobile phone chargers thrown in the bin? This huge amount of waste comes from hundreds of cellphones – perhaps they could be repurposed into modern art. Or, this could teach us that we need a more environmentally-friendly means of charging our phones up. Taken in Atlanta in 2004.

10 Photos That'll Make You Rethink Waste Forever

8) Taken in 2005 this image has such a subtle repetitive beauty however when we look a little closer the objects begin to become somewhat clearer. Trillions of cigarette butts make there way into our environment each and every year (no that wasn’t a typo-trillions!)

cigarette butts


9) This image is almost unfathomable! Taken in 2005 this portrait of Spent Bullet casings is hard to even comprehend.

2005 this portrait of Spent Bullet casings


10) This image of mobile phones, taken in Atlanta in 2005, is perhaps one of the most powerful, showing just how much stuff we throw away. It looks like thousands of toy cars, but it’s actually thousands and thousands of multi-coloured phones – which could be donated or re-used in any number of ways.

image of mobile phones


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