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.
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.
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.
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.