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A picture is worth 1,000 Words… or 60,000 plastic bags

August 31, 2009


Photographer Chris Jordan knows that numbers may not register quite as well as images sometimes. We are bombarded with environmental facts – how many plastic bags are used, how many cell phones disposed of, how much office paper we go through. . . but rarely can we conceptualize what all this waste would actually look like, until now.

In a brilliant series titled, Running the Numbers, Chris Jordan translates statistics into large scale prints assembled from thousands of photographs. 

In three vertical panels totaling 8 x 11 feet, Chris Jordan depicts the 2.4 million pieces of plastic (the estimated number of pounds of plastic that enter the world’s oceans every hour) by using collected plastic pieces from the Pacific:

Plastic piecesThis is a close-up view of the same thing:

plastic pieces close upIn re-creating famous works of art out of our waste, he is making quite the statement about our culture and about our waste. 

In his first in the Running the Numbers exhibits, he shows us what our disposable plastic bottle habit looks like (2 million bottles used every five minutes in the US):

plastic bottlesplastic bottles close upThe sheer amount of waste is overwhelming to see. Especially when you notice that we’re using this many plastic bottles every FIVE minutes.

Another example of our consumer culture: 60,000 plastic bags (used every 5 seconds in the US)

plastic bagsplastic bags closeA final example of our energy use (320,000 light bulbs equal to electricity wasted in the US every minute from inefficient residential use ie. computers in sleep mode, wiring, etc)

energyenergy print sizeWhen there is so much consumerism, it can look ridiculously overwhelming and be cause for pause, but it can also take on a different form. It can become something intriguing. It can make people stop and think. Not just about how much waste we are producing but about our own personal habits. There is nobody pointing a finger at us every time we buy another bottled water. . . we are our own judges. So maybe these images will help us make more educated choices, be more conscientious about our buying habits. See more images at


Images courtesy of

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 21, 2010 5:02 am

    Environmental issue is always been a good and interesting topic. It portrays the negative aspects of human activity. Global warming is one of the result of it. I do think that if everyone of us has an exact knowledge on how to conserve and recycle things we can fight against it.

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