Today, from 10am to 3pm, York students will be invited to toss their waste in the Vari Hall Rotunda in order to create a landfill that represents society’s disconnect with the natural environment.
"It is not every day that you get to throw your waste into the Vari Hall Rotunda with the approval of the University," says Pascal Murphy, chief organizer of the event and a master’s student in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. "Creating a landfill in the main University meeting place may seem like a radical approach, but many people are unaware of the amount of waste that we create in a day or the social and environmental implications of such practices."
Right: Today’s public landfill in Vari Hall shines the spotlight on society’s disconnect with the environment
The public landfill in Vari Hall is an attempt to connect individual waste practices with conspicuous consumption, the marketing of disposability, environmental degradation and issues of environmental injustice and racism. When it comes to actual waste practices in North America, statistics indicate that 99 per cent of everything consumed is thrown away within 6 months. (Source: York Gets Wasted graduate research project.)
The Vari event is intended to encourage students to think beyond the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). "This landfill not only represents how we could improve our waste management, but how we have denied our interconnectedness with the natural world," says Murphy. "We have organized our wastes and much of our economy, under a linear model – from extraction to production to consumption to landfill – which is fundamentally contradictory to the closed-loop interconnectivity of our natural world."
York University has made a number of improvements to its waste collection. The fact that York is supportive of this landfill project, says Murphy, indicates that the University is interested in making some positive changes. Every year York collects roughly 2,200 tonnes of waste, which is equivalent to roughly 6 tonnes every day. "The landfill in Vari Hall is certainly not 6 tonnes, but nobody who walks by it will be able to deny the impacts of our waste practices," says Murphy.
This education/art installation is a part of the annual Eco-Art and Media Festival at York, which is currently celebrating its 15th year. The project is organized by York Gets Wasted, an interdisciplinary group comprised of primarily graduate students who are completing research on issues related to waste.