The available abundance in our cities, together with the current model of consumption, comes with the generation of a massive quantity of residues. Madrid municipality produces and stores a great amount of materials of all kinds, including everything, from large publicity canvas to lamp posts). The great majority of those elements are still in good use when discarded or stored forever.

RE-LABs Madrid expects to:

  1. Research the real waste management system of the different areas of the municipality, and map their stored available materials.
  2. Propose a new management system that enables reuse instead of recycling, using the materials as an example on three intervention projects in school yards.

Main objectives of the project are:

  • Encourage a culture of use inside public institutions and the society.
  • Elaborate a catalogue of the waste and storage materials available at the Madrid municipality and its related companies.
  • Use these materials to implement 3 interventions in Madrid public school yards
  • Propose and test new school playground elements. How could we get them approved?
  • Launch an awareness campaign about reuse, using real cases of massive reuse as examples to follow



You can find the bases of it in this link

The call will be open from July 3 to September 3

RESOLUTION OF THE CALL: after the evaluation of the proposals received, the jury has decided to select the following projects:

ART-Z, CEIP José Hierro Parla by GRUPO
How is the Patio, IES Mariano José de Larra by La Urdimbre
RE-DES, CEIP Juan Sebastian el Cano by Recetas Urbanas


During the first year we have asked, researched and visited the warehouses of the Madrid Municipallity in which there are stored, produced, or arriving materials that we have identified with second live potential and suitable for reuse. We have located them in a map where the main warehouses could be find, but without a doubt there will be more that we did not have the chance to discover… we will have to continue investigating.

While researching, during this time, we also have discovered that reuse practices were already being carried out in our city. Most of them are  unknow for almost every citizen, that is why we have considered important to share some of them with you in the map.



YO♥M30. I LOVE M30


M-30 works: The stage is unique, unexplainable and majetic. It deserves an in-depth recognition. The pharaonic idea of chaging a city almost completely constitutes a good portrait of the current urban policies. The progress of the works, more and more catastrofic, expensive and pharaonic, as open wounds in the land, deserve to be documented before they are forgotten. However, is not only about critizing the proper works as well as focusing on the reform of M-30. When the project to be carried out has sense the works are unavoidable and a lesser evil, but the project in which we are on is probably the most representative example of a stake in the use of private vehicles in Madrid.

Due to these reasons, the only method we found to approach the nonsense of the most popular ring road of the city, like characters of aFellini movie in an apocalyptic movie set, areaciega andBasurama organized a visit in a turistic cabriolet bus around the M-30 works. We got on it with many other people that wanted to check out the great black hole of the mayor Gallardón, looking for that treasure, candy of the big construction companies of the country. From a height of 4 meters, looking over the fence, the works showed as its maximus splendor.

The objective was not other than to make people think with a performatic and carnival-like attitude regarding a surrealist project (it´s not obvious that the reasons behind the project are purely urbanistic or in the interest of the citizens). And of course, to get ahead of the FUTURE and to be the first tourist that visit which in a few years will be the most visited touristic attraction of Europe. Among such peculiar tourists were famous scholars, local activist, environmental engineers, architects aware of the project of the park (the green mat) that will cover the tunnels, a representative from the political party Izquierda Unida that accompained the MEPs when they came to evaluate the project, as well as many other people from multiple fields, plus two musicians that entertained playing live jazz.

The tour started at the entrance of the south by-passin Méndez Álvaro street, and finished in Plaza Castilla, including the towers over Ciudad Deportiva of Real Madrid as an exclusive view courtesy of our travel agency. The tour highlighted the most hardest hit area, between Puente de Praga and Puente de Segovia, authentic battlegrounds. Along the tour were mentioned the construction companies that won the public bids to carry out the works, as well as the theoretical cost of their contracts. When the bus got closer, the workers happily gret the tourists, which celebrated overjoyed the  reception offered by the inhabitants of the works, which were denominated by José Luis Córdoba as an “system with a life of its own”. Like in every great tour, the hostess signalled to the tourists the best places to take pictures as souvenirs and there was a stop to buy typical products.

The touristic trip to the M30 works in Madrid took place on September, 17th of 2006 in a cabriolet double-decker bus M-30 and organized byareaciega and Basurama. Production by SauroPixels.

A preview was made in 2006 in Ladinamo. The 2.0 version was released on internet on January, 22nd of 2007.

Many years later, we wrote a text about M-30 that can be read in the text section.

Aditional information.

The following links give additional information about M-30 thatBasuramaAreaciega have used:

Other related links

A list of links related to the topic.

  • Video of Gallardón visiting the tunnels of M-30( with the engineer Manolo Melis.
  • comwhere the aereal pictures of the original M-30 can be compared with (YahooMaps) the M-30 current ones (Google Maps).
  • Plataforma M-30del Foro por la Movilidad sostenible de Madrid many other people before us, have documented in greater depth the problems of the works, such as the platform  M30 No más coches (cars no more).
  • The project in the webpage of Madrid City Council
  • Article by Ramón López de Lucio: M-30 reform: ¿What is the green ideology hiding?.
  • In the following webpage all kind of details abou procedures, budgets and other technical details about “La locura de la M-30” (“The Madness of M-30” can be found

The Waste room of modernity

Invited to the exhibition “Haushalten in den Meisterhäusern: Wie leben wir morgen gesund und wirtschaftlich?” (“Householding” in the Master houses: how we will live healthy and economically tomorrow?) the first exhibition of contemporary interventions happening at the houses that Gropius designed for the teachers of the Bauhaus in Dessau. It was open from June, 12th to August, 9th 2015.

Researching about the house we were invited to (the Dining Room of Georg Muche), we realized that the house had a buffer space between the kitchen and the dining room, that originally had a window to pass the dishes to the dining room. In that room, the service put the plates together before passing it to the guests. The home of the masters of modernity not only had service living in the dark basement, their service was hidden and unvisible from them. If we think about the service at Downton Abbey, contemporary to them (1926), at least they see each other.

Obviously, modernity was clean because someone else was dirty. Our founding fathers, the Bauhaus and its domesticity did not contemplate any relation with care work. The house was to be a machine for living and creating, alright. But it needed servants.

The installation we proposed crossed those two realities of cleanlines and dirtiness, work and discourse: in the service room, we exhibited some of the photos we took around the world of the waste pickers we have been working with. They were exhibited in the most familiar (and patronising) way. Meanwhile, in the living room, eight thermal printers were printer every twit with the typical hashtags of the contemporary ecological discourse: #Recycle, #Waste, #Efficiency, #Reuse, #Sustainable, #Growth, #Ecology, and not surprisingly the less times twitted #Consumption, which is for us the key word for understading our relation with the world today. 58 days printing every twit with those hashtags, from 10h to 17h CET: Around 15000 mts of thermal paper, 200,000 twits.

While some make ecology work, and invent new methods of caring and householding , some of us dedicate our time to produce discourse, as empty as usual.

This is the curatorial text:

Waste is contemporary, not modern.
Indeed, economy consists today of the production, transport and consumption of waste.
Gropius never included a “waste room” in the meister houses- in his time

There was not as much waste as today. BUT; also the servants handled that.

Modernity was clean because someone else was dirty:
What Gropius included is a room where the servants remained unseen and invisible- the “buffer zone” between the dining room and the kitchen.

Contemporary household produces waste
Indeed, we all work now for the recycling industry, sorting the waste at home, saving work to the recycling industry, not any other but the biggest companies on earth: packaging, mining, steel, aluminium and paper industries are THE recycling industry.
We paid for it and then we have to give it back for free because is “good for the earth”
The massive swindle that consists in buying for overpriced waste, take it home and send it back into the industry is the ultimate exploitation of contemporary economy.

There are no logos for reusing or reducing. All of them ONLY ENCOURAGE to recycle;
there are some informing the material COULD be reused, which material the product is made of, some ask you to be clean and some other to dispose correctly, nothing else. The Pfand, the only useful reusing system existing is, more and more, taken care of by informal workers to work while we party.

Housekeeping and budgeting in the XXI century must include a new waste production  and management culture, and that cannot forget the waste workers, who are the most delicate waste managers and the most thorough reusers. They are, indeed the only one proposing a culture of waste management that might help us reducing the CO emissions and having a happier life. Riding a bike, eating organic and being green makes you happier. “Recycling” (Sorting waste at home and putting them in the bins provided by the biggest companies in the world) is something that makes others happy.

Urban Cooks Platforms


European cities had many empty spaces, abandoned or neglected, that could be bring back to life by citizens’ initiatives through community management. In some cases, this initiatives have been an innovative example of how public space could be managed and created.

However, in many cities these citizen initiatives face diverse barriers that make difficult to develop and manage a project in the public space. The main identified problems are legal ones, security issues and lack of resources, which sometimes are due to citizens lack of technical knowledge and some others due to the obsolete or nonexistent communication channels between citizens and the entities (private or public) that own the resources.

For this reason, it often happens that the access to basic resources for the development of a citizens initiative such as the access to water and electricity and the availability of necessary materials or the access to the legalization process are temporary solved by momentary, or even illegal, arrangements.

In order to solve these problems, it is necessary to understand how this citizen participation channels are currently managed in each country. Being able to identify why they do not work properly are key to propose and implement new ways of management, based on successful examples.




Urban Cooks Platform is a project that seeks to integrate the knowledge and the experience of professionals from various European countries. These professionals, together with citizen initiatives and the rest of the partners will design a common and exportable model to create a local action platform. The Urban Cooks Platform will support citizens initiatives, that manage and create urban space, by mediating between their needs and the public administration and entities that own the resources.

Based on successful examples in the field of citizen participation, resources management and dialogue with institutions, the project participants would design an innovative methodology for bottom up initiatives. This methodology will be tested by each partner in their city through the real support of various citizen initiative projects of urban space management.

The main goal of Urban Cooks Platforms would be defining the necessary conditions for their operation on a permanent basis in each city and moreover their replication in other cities through the methodology developed during the project.




  • Understanding the framework around citizen initiatives in Madrid, Belgrade and Skopje, both common and particular issues.
  • Learning how does existing programs in other cities work, taking a critical look of them.
  • Defining an ideal program, having in mind particular frameworks of each cities. Contents and objectives of this program are important, but also the “how it works”.
  • Approaching to the three municipalities to begin a process of dialogue and reflection.
  • Making a first pilot project, working in each city with a citizen initiative in a concrete space, putting in practice the lines of the program.
  • Harvesting conclusions from the experience and writing a final inform that could lead to an official municipality program for supporting citizen initiatives.




Together with Basurama, this project was co-organized by:

Mikser Association, is a non-profit organization of art and design professionals and a hub for enthusiasts involved in production of various transcultural projects dedicated to development of design, architecture, communication and urban environment, as crucial tools for Serbia’s economic recovery and intellectual restoration. In the last two years Mikser organized competitions, exhibitions, cultural events, conferences, educational courses and lectures.

logo Asociacion Mikser


Institute for the Sociological, Political, and Juridical Research, is part of the “Ss. Cyril and Methodius” University in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. Established almost 50 years ago the ISPJR has always been at the forefront of the social research in the country. The interdisciplinary character of the research activities is mirrored in the graduate studies organized at the institute in the following disciplines, sociology, political sciences, communication, human resources management, and cultural studies. The researchers at the institute teach and supervise a great many doctoral students who conduct their own research in given disciplines.

logo ISPJR



The School of Architecture and the Built Environment, ABE, (Skolan för Arkitektur och samhällsbyggnad) is one of ten schools at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). Its research and educational program regards the future of our societies; how cities, buildings and infrastructure will be designed and built, how institutions and regulatory systems should be developed to produce a good living environment, and how to provide good development conditions for business.

logo KTH


Faculty of Architecture of, is part of “Ss. Cyril and Methodius” University in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia with more than 60 years of experience in education, research and application of knowledge in the field of architecture, urban planning, building technologies, architectural history and theory. Faculty of Architecture in Skopje is constantly engaging in the educational activities for more than 400 students each year and has a alumni of more than 5000 students. In the focus of the institution is research of evolving and contemporary building typology, urban transformations and processes that are shaping our cities and societies.

logo Escuela Arquitectura Skopje


Cervantes Institute, is a worldwide public institution created by the Spanish government in 1991. It is the largest organization in the world concerned with the teaching of Spanish, and it maintains a presence in four different continents throughout 70 centers devoted to the Spanish and Hispanic American culture and Spanish Language. The mission of Instituto Cervantes is to promote the Spanish language and to contribute to the advancement of the cultures of all Spanish speaking countries and communities.

logo Instituto Cervantes


School of Urban Practices. Drawing on the evolving body of trans-disciplinary urban knowledge, urban research, and urban activism, School of Urban Practices develops advanced educational work that redefines design, architecture and urbanism as a field of transformative activity. Selected students and young professionals of many disciplines seek the ways how to improve everyday environment of the devastated neighborhoods whether through public policy, mediation, urban planning and architecture design, or any other forms of design that involves citizens from the very beginning of the project.  By working continually on the site for the public interest and by exchanging aspirations with local community entrepreneurs, School of Urban Practices creates sustainable strategies and projects based on critical engagement with contemporary issues of commons.

logo School of Urban Practices


ARHITEKTRI is a young studio based in Skopje, founded in 2009 by Risto Avramovski, Ana Boranieva and Dejan Ivanovski. Beside arhitectural problems and tasks, the studio works on collaborative research projects as well and participates in educational events and programmes for raising awareness for urban planning flaws and improving the quality of urban life in Skopje.



TrashLation is an artistic project produced in conjunction with ART­EX program. The purpose of the program is to research and reflect about the concept of consumption-identity and waste.

The purpose of this project is to visualize at world level, how much waste each and every one of us produce regardless our social class, country of origin or age; to be able to display in images how local and global are closely related; to produce talks about consumption and waste; to see others through what generally remains hidden, their rubbish.

These following countries take part in Trashlation: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Hungary, India, Japan, Morocco, Mexico, Norwey, Philiphines, Southafrica, Spain and Sweden.

When researching on the relation consumption-identity both, evidences and topics raise up, but we also discover surprising correlations among global trash and people. Trashlation follows the trail of concepts and meanings related to consumption and need, consumption and desire, consumption as memory, citizens as consumers, differences between consumption and consumerism…far from being a sociology or survey pretension, it nourishes from the global and collective imaginary and the trash of people, therefore their intimacy taking part in the project.

Trashlation does not pretend to compare occidental excessive/acceptable consumption with the increasing consumption of south countries. Trashlation displays how each participant plunges into their own inorganic trash and select what they believe that represents them better: their life style, their social status, their “taste” as social distinction, their whims, secrets and vices. The truth is that we all make use of a sort of filter when choosing not what really shows who we are but what we want people to identify us with. When choosing our trash we are making a self-portrait of consumption-identity, we show our ”b side”, the most public and at the same time intimate side of ourselves.

 In this tension we situate Trashlation, generating a landscape of our daily life.

 If you want to be part of the project, just send us your portrait and a picture of the waste you produced during the last 24h following this instructions.



 You can check the TrashLation exhibition cataloge.
// June-July 2016. La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. Manila, Philippines.
// February-March 2016. Centro Centro. Madrid, Spain.
// September-October 2015. Melbourne University, Australia.

 The exhibition was divided into 3 parts:

CONSUMPTION AND IDENTITY (we are what we throw away) collecting the participants diptychs.
CONSUMPTION AND MEMORY, vacuum zip bags with selected trash of participants from all countries.
GLOBAL CONSUMPTION, UNIVERSAL CITIZEN an edited video morphing photos received.


Learning from the mining areas

See many more pics.

We were invited to participate in the exhibition “Learning from Las Cuencas” (Cuencas are the mining areas of Asturias, northern Spain) a research project on the cultural landscape of the Asturian coalfields.

  • Place: Laboral, centro de arte y creación industrial. Gijón, Asturias.
  • Date: 27.09.13-23.02.14
  • Other participating artists: Óscar de Ávila, Basurama, Edu Comelles, Cómo crear historias, Antonio Corral Fernández, Bárbara Fluxá, Marcos Martínez Merino, Fran Meana, Mind Revolution, OSS Office for Strategic Spaces, Recetas Urbanas, Daniel Romero

The project defines four scenery that determine landscapes of “las cuencas”: natural, rural, industrial and urban; starting with these landscapes, is proposed an analysis of the artifacts that have been settling through the hybridization of the four concepts mentioned.

Basurama propose a second layer of perception through the design and installation of traffic signals.

Road signs indicate things that are not so clear at first sight: both potential hazards become visible as lines of action or even resources. Their function is to notify the items that we can find in the way and recommend us to behave in one way or another. They serve both to remind the native ( who is so used to that path that gets too
confident) as the newcomer (who is unfamiliar with the environment).

But these signals are produced from a central agency that, through a general protocol, applies this landscape acupunture in local areas.

Would it be possible to extend and deepen this protocol, and manage its distinctiveness among the different actors that populate a landscape?
Even… would it be possible to design, manufacture and geotag our own signs to show the world a subjective story?

This project is an emerging prototype, rather than working directly with a community, the designs have been pre – defined by a few artists. These designs are available to various agents with the intention of test reactions.

You can see the all the signs we worked with in an animated gif above,
and below the interventions did with the five we finally produced

Photo credits: LABoral / Paula A.C


6,000 km is a documentation project devoted to research into cities’ metabolism, making visible certain hidden landscapes related to production, consume, and waste. Through a series of photographs, data an text, the project seeks to show specific spaces where waste is produced, handled and manipulated. Apart from the obvious ones —such as landfills and scrapyards— transport infrastructures and new models of urbanization are studied.

The project has focused its research in the effects of the real estate bubble in Spain. The last economic expansion period experienced in Spain has increased the use, and miss-use, of land. The research  “landscapes after the battle” focuses on the post real estate boom, and its effects over the territory.

The project used different media streams to display and gather information:

10 tactics for information activism

The 10 tactics displayed in –a project devoted to provide different ways for rights advocates to capture attention and communicate a cause– are a good way to explain different features of the project. What methods have been useful to extend the message and empower others to act and spread the message?

1. mobilise people.

The interactive map has been the main interactive platform to display and gather information about places to study. The open publishing web has allowed thirteen users to submit 87 entries. It must be mentioned that half of these users are part of the core group of the project. How these kind of platforms could be more inclusive and more widely used?

  • To make open platform for civic engagement it might be useful to detach the project from the activist-artist-producer and make it a more white label-platform. For good or bad the promoting group,, is the author of the project and that could make other activist to make their own projects. Projects like Open Street Map have managed to be seen as open publishing critical platforms.
  • Projects must include tools for participation, but theyl also need promoting tools to be able to spread the word.

2. witness and record

The project is an open archive for all the situations that have a big impact in the territory. A panorama photo from the place, taken from a human perspective, shows directly how the location is. The photo goes along with a text and some data regarding the location.

We are thinking of doing a follow up of the places we have visited so far and have a series of photos of the places across time, as well as the evolution of the story of the place in a wiki style.

3. visualise your message

The meipi tool offers different approaches to visualize the locations posted on the map:  by categories, an interactive mosaic of photos or the map. This sections list all the locations posted in the open platform. Then we decided to make our own curated archive in the site and a book. Does this proliferation of visualization help send the message or are it is “too much” information for the user?


Anyway, we are thinking in possible new strategies to reach a broader audience by using more media tools in a more intensive way. Here some examples of collaborators: video (TOMOTO) and audio (eneko).

As the project right now is based in big format panorama photos, we are planning a series of videos animated them with different techniques and the extensive use of DIY aerial potography we have explored recently in Saugus Ash Landfill in Massachusetts.

4. amplify personal stories
We haven’t used personal stories, but in its way we try to reveal hidden stories of certain places.

5. just add humour
In the quotes that we use for every location we try to extract from high and low culture references:
From Shakira in Marina d’Or urbanization:

“Y ahora estoy aquí
queriendo convertir
los campos en ciudad
mezclando el cielo con el mar”
“Estoy aquí”. Pies Descalzos. Shakira. 1996

to Miguel de Cervantes

“-Por cierto, señor Sansón Carrasco, que tenemos nuestro merecido: con facilidad se piensa y se acomete una empresa, pero con dificultad las más veces se sale della. Don Quijote loco, nosotros cuerdos: él se va sano y riendo, vuesa merced queda molido y triste. Sepamos, pues, ahora, cuál es más loco: ¿el que lo es por no poder menos, o el que lo es por su voluntad?”
Segunda parte del ingenioso caballero don Quijote de la Mancha. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. 1615

With the IESO (Instituto por el Desarrollo de la Sostenibilidad), a kind of Yes Men Scientific group, we have also explored some humorous and media approaches to address similar topics: See 100% Sostenible video with english captions

6. manage your contacts
We have worked with very different kind of people (environmentalists, artists, experts) and organizations to make the research, but we’ve not maintained them. We are thinking of having an open email list to communicate among collaborators.

7. use complex data

The map is the more complex visualization. We preferred to have more specific-realted quality content, instead of a bulk-GIS approach to the locations. Still, we are looking for data bases that we could use. So far, our geolocations are available in a kml format:

We also contributed to Open Street Map (OSM) project by uploading information about the places we studied. A lot of the landfills we’ve studied so far, were not in google maps and not in OSM. Check here and play with the layers to see how the landfill in Saugus is only in OSM map.

8. use collective intelligence
The collective mapping tool use the crowd-sourced generated information to extend the research and facilitate the work of others.

9. let people ask the questions
All the sites that we have built have open comments and encourage people to publish their own content: collaborate + open call for collaborations.

10. investigate and expose
The whole project is an open end research. How can we make it more open?

“El Pati -Obert-”. Creative space for coexistence.

Process’s pictures here.

What’s about pedagogy in a process of urban’s transformation?

The great amount of empty and unused urban sites in the historic city centre of Lleida entails not only a urban and socioeconomic conflict but environmental, social and esthetic. Taking this situation as starting point, El Pati Obert’s will is to become an independent and transformative project beginning from the communitarian action, experimenting, correcting and coming up with a dialogue all along with local community.

University, City hall, neighbors and Basurama team built up a network of both, relationships and negotiations that spread into everyone implied. These relationships will make research possible through pedagogic tools that are developed and activated in a communitarian process as El Pati Obert.

Project’s driving force:
Facultad de Ciencias de la Educación de la Universidad de Lleida
Centre dArt la Panera
Solars Vius

Basurama made a number of trips to Lleida in 2004 to bring this action network:

First trip: March 4th to 6th.
Network creation. Establishing contact with different members of the neighborhood: citizens, collectives, institutions (formal and non formal education) and social agents. Once the contact has been settled a relational network will be launched to plan jointly site’s transformation. We will always keep in mind real, felt and expressed needs of the community as the basic objective of the project.

Second trip: May 5th to 9th.
Working with university students and neighbors.
A creative workshop in the urban site.
Compilation of intervention’s materials.

Third trip: June 17th to 29th.
Construction of urban site’s intervention.
Preproduction and open construction Workshops.

Forth trip: 16th to 21st.
Funding of the construction phase.
Dinamization phase.
Beginning of research’s drafting.

5th Trip. September
Dinamization phase.
Research for the essay.



Local Squares. Leonardo partnership 2012

European cities are currently facing massive challenges that range from growing urbanization to an increased cultural diversity of their own population. The way urban planning chooses to address these issues will influence the future of our living together in permanent ways. In order to foster livable, sustainable and resilient cities, an inclusive, creative, interdisciplinary and participatory urban planning approach is needed.

There is an increasing need to tackle the complex realities of cities by addressing and incorporating stakeholders collective knowledge in the development and implementation of urban solutions for the management of public spaces: organizations or individuals, and range from public and private organizations, to experts and politicians, to media and citizens.

Local Squares is a training for urban planners that aims at identifying and experiencing participatory approaches in local urban contexts. The Training focuses on the design, development and testing of a toolbox of strategies and approaches to involve a broader diversity of stakeholders in the management of public spaces.

The Partnership will be composed of seven Partners from five countries:




Dissecting Objects

Analyzing and visualizing how much waste we buy everyday. Co-organized with Dietmar Offenhuber in the Guggenheim Lab at Berlin.

How much waste do we buy?

We’ve been asking ourselves the same question since many years ago. We’ve been thinking different ways how to show the world the absurdity of buying and wasting so much material. From the objects in Basurmantes exhibition Nacidos para morir (Born to die, 2004) to the video Chainwork (2008), to mention some, we’ve been trying possible ways.

This time we wanted to add some numbers to the equation. We didn’t want ‘numbers’ extracted from data bases generated by governments and recycling companies. We just wanted to know how much waste we buy. We’ve figured out a simple equation:

Waste Packaging Index (WPI) = Packaging / Total Weight of the product

Products with no packaging, like a tomato, would have a 0% WPI, and merchandising products that are onlye packaging would be 100% WPI.

Workshop, hands on!

We started with a small amount of products in our first “Dissect Waste” workshop. We went to the supermarket and bought different articles: what a joy to know that we are buying waste! Our purpose was to weigh the products and their packaging to make a straight forward visualizations of the data obtained.

Data were collected and shared publicly, so that everyone can use or add more information to them. We decided to use only available online tools, no need of programming skills: a simple spreadsheet at gdocs.

Weighing and labeling all the products took us a long time: we were ‘forced’ to eat and drink milk, beer, cookies an juice in order to not spoil the items purchased! Once we were finished we could arrange the products in order related to the Waste Packaging Index. With the help of a projector we were displaying on the table the bar chart with the different data from the WPI.

This was just the first visualization that we’ve planned to do with the participants. We wanted a question to arise naturally, and it happened: “Is it enough to measure the weight? Depending on the type of material some products are more harmless than others. How to compare the tetrapack (aluminium, plastic and cardboard put together) with a cardboard coated box? Is weight the only measure?”

Actimel, a kind of yougurt sold in very small plastic bottles, was among the objects with less WPI. Some participants in the workshop suggested that it should be taken out the visualization, to not mislead suggesting that Actimel was a “good” with not much packaging product. We know that this product had plastic, cardboard and aluminium.  We prefered to let it be and comment the flaws of the systems. One visualization, one data set, one equation, one index is always limited but it is still a powerful tool.

We knew we needed to go deeper, and that is what we want to research. We had prepared a series of other WPI that took in account things like:

  • the volume of the materials (both compresed and uncompresed)
  • the price of the materials, both up and downstreaming (materials as raw products or the price you get when recycling)
  • the footprint of the materials (we were thinking on using footprinted API)
  • materials depending on where are they going to end theirs lives (recycling, reuse, burnt, disposed in a land fill)

Anyway, we still love the Waste Packaging Index: it’s simple to measure and you don’t rely on other third party data to calculate it. It’s true that it has its limitations, but it still helps understand the quantity of waste we buy.

At the right of our bar chart were the raw materials: an apple, at the left light products with a lot of packaging, like the tea bags. We are so used to them that we do not realize that tea bags,tea lables, tea strings and tead boxes are not needed: we just need some good tea leaves to enjoy a good tea!
Both the workshop and the Waste Packagin Index are good ways to explain the importance of creating and sharing our own data sets. We live surrounded by data, in the information age, but we still need to generate our own data sets to measure what we need. We can not only rely on data provided by recycling companies (in Berlin those data tell that 100% of the plastic is recycled, obviously controversial if the only plastic that it’s being measured is the one that arrives to the recycling plant).

That’s why initiatives regarding #opendata, like the collective efforts of the Public Laboratory to realease available aerial photography information or a specrophotomereal data base, are so important to give citizens the information they need.

We are now planning future workshops and creating a digital tool to gather data to make Waste Pacakging Index available for everyone. We are also planning how to represent it. We encourage you to try, all you need is a scale, products and time to upload your data!

Related info

The presentation we used in the workshop.

Link to this document (data resources):
Link to presentation slides:
Link to spreadsheet and data collected:

List to data resources on Life Cycle Analysis and waste management:

Related posts: Weighing a scale

You can find  about the workshop on Dietmar’s website or at Guggenheimlab one.