Images courtesy of Harley Weir.

Harley Weir on con­scious consumption

The photographer's beautiful but disturbing images are on sale to raise money for the Marine Conservation Society.

Plas­tic is far from fan­tas­tic. While the world has become increas­ing­ly aware of this fact – with the UK gov­ern­ment ban­ning sin­gle-use stuff from April 2020 – Harley Weir has long been push­ing the plas­tic-free agenda. 

The pho­tog­ra­ph­er has been tak­ing pho­tos of syn­thet­ic trash and upload­ing them to her Insta­gram account @rubbish_1.2 since 2015. Doc­u­ment­ing every­thing from cig­a­rette-butt-filled holes to marooned land­fill sites, as well as count­less pics of plas­tic lit­ter, the hope is that her close ups will make peo­ple check their con­sump­tion. Now, after four years of steadi­ly post­ing, Weir’s pho­tos are avail­able to buy, with all prof­its going to Marine Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety – an organ­i­sa­tion that’s pas­sion­ate about cre­at­ing a sus­tain­able future for our seas. 

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Where are your rub­bish pho­tos taken?

These ones are tak­en at a rub­bish dump in Scot­land. The plas­tic often blows away so the dump is sur­round­ed by net­ting. All of the small bits of plas­tic whip around on these nets like a mosa­ic of dying fish. It’s quite strange to see these friend­ly house­hold brands stuck in time, becom­ing poi­son, remem­ber­ing that they will live on 10x past our life spans. 

What first prompt­ed you to start shoot­ing the rub­bish around you?

Around 2015 I became very aware of rub­bish and more specif­i­cal­ly humans dev­as­tat­ing impact on the envi­ron­ment; my impact. I’ve changed a lot and thank­ful­ly I feel like things are start­ing to move in a more pos­i­tive direction. 

How has this made you feel about your own footprint?

Very guilty. Most­ly the exces­sive trav­el­ling. I read that every flight from New York to Lon­don costs the plan­et three square metres of ice. I’ve cut down con­sid­er­ably and will con­tin­ue to do so. 

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What steps are you tak­ing towards zero waste?

I have pret­ty much com­plete­ly boy­cotted super­mar­kets; every­thing is plas­tic wrapped and tastes like crap. I go to my local green­gro­cers for veg and refill shops with my own con­tain­ers for deter­gents and dry food. I have my own water bot­tle and pack lunch box­es and I use biodegrad­able sponges and wood­en brush­es for wash­ing up. 

I have pret­ty much only bought sec­ond hand clothes since birth and take old clothes to get remade in to new things if I’m not wear­ing them. That’s actu­al­ly very excit­ing! When I do pur­chase any new cloth­ing I make sure it’s some­thing I will keep for­ev­er and wear reg­u­lar­ly. Any­thing I don’t wear I give to friends or char­i­ty shops. 

Trav­el is some­thing that’s dif­fi­cult. It’s bought me so much knowl­edge and has been such a huge pas­sion in life. When I trav­el, I off­set by donat­ing half the price of the flight to charity. 

Any every­day tips for peo­ple reading? 

I refill sham­poo and con­di­tion­er or I use Lush dam­aged hair con­di­tion­er treat­ments. One stick actu­al­ly makes a lot of the stuff and I keep it in a jar and use as reg­u­lar con­di­tion­er. I also use Soap­nuts beer sham­poo bar. There’s a great all nat­ur­al cos­met­ics refill shop in Brix­ton called Sunee­ta Cosmetics. 

Only buy the food you can eat. I real­ly enjoy the chal­lenge of try­ing to cook some­thing amaz­ing with what’s left in the fridge. 

Get a reusable bag for shop­ping and save the plas­tic bags you do use and use them again and again. You can also switch your ener­gy provider to green ener­gy, I’m with Pure Plan­et. Bulb seems to have a good rep­u­ta­tion too.

Avoid take aways or at least ask for no plas­tic forks. If it’s just you eat­ing it’s easy to bring your own con­tain­ers too.

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Why did you choose to donate to the Marine Con­ser­va­tion Society?

It’s hard to choose what char­i­ty is best but they seem to do a great job of help­ing to pre­serve our waters from pol­lu­tion, which is one of the biggest issues with plas­tic and rub­bish in general.

What’s your biggest fear for the future?

I fear that ani­mals and marine life will become extinct in the wild and that the seas will be too poi­soned to swim in. That we will all have to wear gas masks out­side, the rich­est peo­ple will have the best ways of avoid­ing cli­mate change and the rest will suf­fer considerably. 

What do you hope peo­ple take away from these images? 

I hope peo­ple become aware and realise their actions mat­ter. We need to stop think­ing some­one else will change things. We have got to be the change we want to see. Stop buy­ing sin­gle use plas­tic and it will stop being sold. Don’t wait for the gov­ern­ments to make moves – by then it will be too late.

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To pur­chase one of Harley’s prints, email [email protected]


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