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Art of the unwanted
Malu Fink, 16 Dec 07
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As you’ll almost certainly know, landfills are constantly filling up with gratuitous garbage. What happens to the metal/paper/plastic juice box after the contents are emptied, the Styrofoam chips that protected your latest tech upgrade, your takeaway coffee cups? Well, normally they would be carted off to join millions of tones underground and out of sight. We’ve reported before on how to make trash more visible, and how to positively engage young people in the bright green movement.

Waitakere City’s annual Trash to Fashion show is a novel and appealing event that puts our waste provocatively in view. This year it turned its focus to children and education.

It is a sad fact that that of the 3.6 billion tons of rubbish (a fact provided with no other background by a child in the audience) 65% is recyclable. But the child tells me that Trash to Fashion is a way to remind people what is being thrown out. It’s an event concerned with fantastical costumes, all consisting things that would otherwise be forgotten, and dramatic modeling with a wry awareness of the origins of their garments of beauty.

In the case of the plastic chip packet a very punk wizard sauntered on stage with his long cloak swirling bombastically around his ankles, finger-pointing at the responsible brand names: Twisties, Cheezels among various others. The Styrofoam chips and packing materials brought a Hans Christian Anderson quality to the Supreme Award winners Snow King and Queen, his royal highness in armor made of Styrofoam beans, and the queen in a ethereal plastic-covered crinoline. Netting shower loofahs made appearances as hair roses. Delightful!

The event was split into three sections: Magic and Mystery, Ground Swell and Trendy Trash. These were then further split into age categories, Primary (5-11) Intermediate (11-13) and Secondary (13-18). Magic and Mystery featured the fairy-tale and the mythical, several plastic princesses with Disney-style dresses paraded to the tinkly sounds of a toy piano. Ground Swell was items found in nature, with many uses of harekeke and weaving but sadly not limited to natural fibers; plastic bags and empty toilet rolls were juxtaposed with beautiful flax and feathers. Rubbish unfortunately makes its way uninvited into natural places, and while the results were beautiful on stage, they were a somewhat jarring reminder of the pollution that happens in our local parks and gardens. Trendy Trash had a definite dystopian punk feeling, an edgy quality as a girl strode across the stage with a giant tinsel star atop her head, and a hand bag made from plastic Christmas tree branches. A poignant reminder of what else Christmas brings.

Recycling is a reasonable part of the New Zealand school curriculum, the axiom “reduce, reuse, recycle” has been in place for quite some time, the numbers of plastics that can be collected are often reviewed and nearly every school has a recycling programme in place.

Trash to Fashion began as a part of the Keep Waitakere Beautiful Trust and has grown from a small local event to an arts extravaganza. This years effort was a gap year from the annual big show, to concentrate on the schools category.

If it sounds like your kind of thing or you want to make a statement this Christmas season, here’s my pick of the easy and innovative ideas to remind people that we’re surrounded by trash: Take two takeaway coffee cup lids, cut out the middles and attach some hooks. Bam – hoop earrings!

Also see Elin Kelsey’s insightful Removing Our Kids from the Front Lines of Climate Change, also on World Changing.


Image: Ms T Bag has an outfit made of teabags and other found items. Used with permission from Waitakere City Council.

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