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  • AntoineR

(Un)Sustainable Consumption: The City of Light is Now The City of Waste

Updated: May 18, 2023


A pile of white trash bags


The strike against the French pension reform continues and pictures of Paris covered in tons of rubbish circulate around the world 🤢

These pictures should be a wake-up call for each one of us and an invitation to reflect on the amount of garbage we all produce. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with a developed waste management system, the lifespan of your trash usually is a few seconds.

Receiving an Amazon delivery?

The box 📦 becomes trash as soon as the parcel is open. It flips from “useful” (protecting the delivered goods) to “useless” in a matter of seconds ⏱️, and gets thrown away out of sight for the “system” to handle it. The same goes with all our goods. As soon as we label them ”not useful anymore” 🙅‍♀️, they get relegated to trash and collected, out of the way.

While this all seems magical or maybe “just normal” for many of us, this “magical cleaning machine” 🪄 is not only the result of the hard work of many men and women, often neglected by all of us, but is also and sadly, not so magical after all…

See, Lavoisier gave us a hint with his famous quote “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”. If nothing is lost, is our trash transformed, then?

The answer is: it depends.

While some of it finds its way back in the economic machine, becoming “desirable” again, most of our trash just stays trash and gets pilled in huge landfills, sometimes very far from our modern homes!

But, why wouldn’t all our garbage be recycled? ♻️

For one, not all materials are easily recyclable (e.g. some plastics). Also, it’s not always the most economical thing to do (even if we can)! 🤑


Sometimes, it’s just better, economically, to throw away a “thing” and extract new resources to manufacture a new identical “thing”, from scratch. That’s because recycling takes resources and can use a lot of energy (it isn’t free!), but also because some industries are more mature than others, and so, allow achieving economies of scale. This fuels a short/midterm vicious circle, because then, why recycle if it’s less profitable? This means: lots of extractive activity, lots of goods intended to be thrown away produced, and huge volumes of trash, exceeding - by far - the recycling capacity, which grows our landfills… 💀👎


Ok, let’s go back to 🇫🇷 🥖

This strike in Paris, and France more generally, should bring back awareness of our un-sustainable consumption, and catalyze a discussion around the many issues of the linear economy.

We need to zoom out & get out of the "carbon tunnel": carbon neutrality alone won’t take us where we need to be 🤷

These mountains of garbage should be a wake-up call and an invitation to rethink our systems of production and consumption.

As the French saying goes: “Loin des yeux, loin du coeur”.

Well… let this strike connect us back with our waste, which is very much part of this reality that is ours.

💚🌍

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