Out There, Right Now

What Is in the Trash?

Dora Varga
Mon 10 Dec

In the final quarter of 2018, the Municipality of Rotterdam, Stadswonen and the Erasmus Sustainability Hub have initiated a contest for students, inviting them to come up with the city’s most circular solution. The winners of the Circular Student Award 2018, our own Dora Varga and Lotte Gerick (Zero-Waste Meal concept) will get the opportunity to realise the idea while enlarging own network/circle in the process.

Zero-Waste Meal is created by Dora Varga (Third Year Graphic Design/Data Design/Commercial Practices) and Lotte van Gerick (RASL: Graphic Design and International Bachelor Arts and Culture Studies). With their Zero-Waste meal principle, Dora and Lotte want to promote awareness right from the start. For some time now, Dora aspires to change her ecological footprint and to decrease the waste she produces. Seeing her friend's enthusiasm, Lotte has got excited about acquiring a new mindset as well. Both students have come up with the system that is changing due to the change of surroundings. Most of the time we adapt to changes if we see people close to us change.

Dora Varga (Graphic Design) and Lotte Gerick (Graphic Design and International Bachelor Arts and Culture Studies)

Zero-Waste Meal is a close parallel of another Dora's ongoing project that had started with the visualisation of our waste using data design. In the story below, Dora introduces how this project has come to life.

In the summer I travelled through the West Coast of America with my boyfriend. It was a beautiful trip and we stayed at our friends' and families homes, which was great, but what struck me was the amount of single-use plastic people were consuming. By drinking water from single-use plastic bottles or getting a lot of takeout single-use plastic food containers. While I was judging them, I questioned myself: Am I doing it any better at home? I like to call myself a conscious human being, but when I collected my single-use plastic waste of four weeks the result was shocking. I ended up with 60 litres, which is 720 litres a year produced by two people living together. Obviously, I had to make some changes and in only one month I managed to cut my single-use plastic by 66%.

Plastic waste of four weeks in categories

I questioned myself: Am I doing it any better?

Plastic waste of four weeks in categories, diagram

At home I had managed to reach amazing results in reducing my waste but what about our school? The trash cans at Willem de Kooning Academy are 'undemanding'. You throw everything into the same bin, except for paper - the school provides baskets for paper waste on every floor. Still, I was very curious if these boxes were used all the time. Therefore, I had analysed the waste that has been created in three days on the ground floor in Blaak building. By separating the trash I could physically visualise the data and see, how many litres of the trash was recyclable, compostable or is solid waste.

People often say that they are not the ones who should initiate the change but rather the government. I think that is the reason that hyper-individualism has been a booming movement in the past few years.

People with the zero-waste or low-impact lifestyle are not waiting for a “higher power” to decide what should be done with all the trash that is being created. They decide how to minimise their own ecological footprint. Lauren Singer is my most inspirational zero waster. Lauren Singer runs a blog where she shares tips and advises on how to live a zero waste life. She also runs the Package Free shop where she sells items helping people reduce their waste.

I see tons of solutions

There are plenty of inspirational people and motivation from them. While doing this project I have definitely realised that students and teachers talk so often about sustainability but in reality, all the trash goes in the same trashcans. But I also see tons of solutions. First of all, I hope that the data I have collected will support my notion that we indeed should separate trash within the school. The
university, hospitals, museums and even IKEA is separating the trash. WdKA could start by separating trash only in a few busy places to see how it is working out. After that, we could expand the different trashcans to all over the school. If the school would like to go diehard zero waste, they even could set up a compost project on the rooftop where we could bring our leftovers to create soil from it. The soil could be sold or used by the students.

What is in the trash? - Data Design by Dora Varga

As a graphic designer, I can make the topic about separating trash easier to understand and talk about. With a visual and designed performance, I would like to invite students and teachers to view my project as educational rather than a harsh critique on everyone who is responsible for the waste and trash around us.


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