Photos: Americans snuggle up to a week’s worth of their trash, in a powerful message on waste

Americans generate more waste than any other national population in the world. More than half of this waste comes from residential garbage, with each individual producing an estimated two kilos of trash every day.

To show just how much we discard, in January 2014, US photographer Gregg Segal decided to ask friends and neighbors in Altadena, California, to save their trash for a whole week. Then he photographed them lying in it.

“I figured if I photographed friends, neighbors and other acquaintances lying in a week’s worth of their garbage, they might consider their habits more deeply and maybe even make some changes in their routine,” Segal tells Quartz. “We’re victims of comfort and convenience. It’s hard to change your habits when it’s so much easier to use and throw away.”

But Segal’s project isn’t really designed to shame individuals, he notes. “The burden of responsibility rests on the manufacturer,” he says. “Our economic model and its necessity for continual growth is what fuels much of the waste epidemic and makes conservation seem untenable.”

7 Days of Garbage_Belinda & Robert 60547
Belinda & Robert. (Gregg Segal)
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Cass. (Gregg Segal)
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Dana. (Gregg Segal)
7 Days of Garbage_Elias_Jessica_Azai & Ri-karlo_0155
Elias, Jessica, Azai, and Ri-karlo. (Gregg Segal)
7 Days of Garbage_Gaby_57947
Gaby. (Gregg Segal)
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James. (Gregg Segal)
7 Days of Garbage_John 65314_v2
John. (Gregg Segal)
7 Days of Garbage_Mariko 60134
Mariko. (Gregg Segal)
7 Days of Garbage_Marsha & Steve 58393
Marsha and Steven. (Gregg Segal)
7 Days of Garbage_Michael, Jason, Annie & Olivia 66189
Michael, Jason, Annie & Olivia. (Gregg Segal)
7 Days of Garbage_Sam & Jane_65687_v2
Sam & Jane. (Gregg Segal)
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Segal Family. (Gregg Segal)
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Alfie, Kirsten, Miles, and Elly. (Gregg Segal)
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Susan. (Gregg Segal)
7 Days of Garbage_Till & Nicholas_58790
Till and Nicholas. (Gregg Segal)
Sammy Primero. (Gregg Segal)
(Gregg Segal)
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