Tag Archives: Plastic

This Ain’t a Trash Story

with Mia Lauzon

This ain’t a trash story instead it is a story of artistic expression and creating positive change. While the story begins on a beach littered with plastic and other garbage; the ending is up to you.

This week, Zero Waste Canada talks with Mia Lauzon, a artist, photographer, environmentalist about her project “This Ain’t a Trash Story”. Mia recently was part of Creatively United for the Planet’s inspirational Earth day event in Victoria B.C.

In 2010, Mia Lauzon while volunteering in Ecuador came upon the trashed-filled beach of Bunche on the Pacific Ocean and this is where Jenny, Leopol, Isaac, Oscar and Rebecca came to life.

Jenny, Isaac, Leopol, Oscar and Rebecca

Your art has a purpose, could you explain what you want to achieve?

I believe that like the characters I created, life is made up of multiple pieces, interacting and connecting in unsuspected ways, creating a whole. As one part of this whole, humans have to understand how their actions and choices impact the rest of it. I hope to bring awareness to the true cost of our lifestyle. Above all, I want people to know that it doesn’t have to be a trash story and like I did on that beach, they can change the narrative into one of creation, connectedness and beauty. I want for everyone to feel the uplifting energy of being part of the solution, working together with Mother Nature and all our brothers and sisters.

How did your volunteer experience in Ecuador impact what you are doing today with This Ain’t a Trash Story?

Is litter a problem in Ecuador?

The volunteering I’ve done out there had nothing to do with the trash-filled beach, even though, the organization would put up some beach clean-ups from time to time. Unfortunately it would take a very short time before it would be filled with  plastic again as it kept being pushed along the shores of this little bay, carried by the ocean currents. Which amount was coming from Ecuadorian communities versus what was carried by the ocean from miles away, I do not know. One thing I know is that recycling infrastructures were almost nonexistent out there. It was one thing to clean the beach but there was nowhere for this plastic to go and be properly recycled. It would simply go from the beach to the landfill, spoiling another landscape.

People learn in many ways, do you feel that by creating art from the found litter on beaches people can learn about plastic pollution and change behaviours?

I consider that more you engage with something, less foreign it becomes to you and more you connect with it. So yes, my hope is that by creating an experience, I also help creating emotional connections, leading towards awareness and behavior changes​.

The characters Jenny, Isaac, Leopol, Oscar and Rebecca you have created from waste found on the beach, look like friendly cartoonish illustrations from children books, yet that tooth paste tube or sandal on the beach is not a thing of beauty and is disruptive to nature, do you feel that is part of the power of the message in the art?

— Humans are fundamentally creative yet we seem to forget the true sense of it. Engaging in a creative process is reconnecting with the essence of being human. And we surely need to get back to our essence in order to create the change that will help us find balance and harmony with the Earth. Now, storytelling has been a component of human identity since the beginning of time, really. It helps us relate to the world, understand it and understand ourselves. So there is a huge emotional charge coming with storytelling and I truly believe that sharing our own stories is a great way to empower ourselves. Once empowered, we can choose a better story for the world.

Do you feel that by engaging people in a creative process with the storytelling component that people can be reached emotionally?

I’d say so, yes. The sources of information are multiple and the attention spend is to a minimal, suffering from this state of overstimulation. I am learning to accept that I can’t get everyone’s attention, I can’t touch everyone.  That’s why it so important to have different voices out there, bringing their own color to the sustainability topic, resonating in different ways with different type of people.  I can only hope that my approach might be the one that will make the difference for some.

History can offer examples of artist contributing to social awareness of environmental issues. In the nineteenth century landscape artists like Thomas Moran by showing the beauty of places like the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone helped to cause policy-makers to create conservations efforts like legal status for a park or reserve. Do you think artists can influence policy makers today to take action to reduce plastic pollution and reduce waste?

I think that artists and anyone can do it. We all have an impact. We are like raindrops, creating ripples, influencing everyone and everything on our way. Personally, I choose to use my voice and skills as a positive influence and agent for change. I encourage everyone else to do so. Now, the gift of artists might be in their ability to touch others, therefore yes I believe they can help rally people, gain momentum and influence policy makers and consumers alike.

You recently participated in The Creatively United for the Planet Earth Day event in Victoria BC, part of your interactive display was to ask “How do you choose to create a better world”, what kind of responses did you get from the participants?

It was interesting to me to see how people seemed to have a hard time figuring out what they did to create a better world. I don’t think it is because they do nothing, I think it is more because a lot of the little things that make a difference towards making a better world get overlooked. Another thing that came out is how people would give suggestions on how to create a better world instead of embodying their own actions. They would write Use less plastic instead of I use less plastic, Stop shopping and Start growing instead of I have stopped shopping and replaced it by growing my own food, Don’t litter and pick up others instead of Even though I don’t litter, I make a point of picking up others’ litter wherever I find it.  Is it because we still think that as an individual, we don’t make the difference and that’s the others that have to change to make a real difference? Food for thought! Here are some of my favorite answers: cherishing the old instead of buying into the pressure of getting new stuff all the time, making a driftwood Christmas tree with the kids and returning it to the beach at the end of the festivities and a teenager wrote : Remember that stuff does not equal happiness! Loved it!

What are your plans for This Ain’t a Trash Story?

That’s a good question!  Creatively United was marking the official public beginning of it. I learned a lot from the way people were interacting or not with the display and content. I wish I can keep inspiring more people and growing a bigger community through my facebook page. I also want to get a blog started and share stories of people making the world a better place in their own way. I would love to lead workshops at some points, helping people to be empowered when comes time to BE the change.Through creativity, beauty and playfulness, I want to keep sharing my vision of the world and what is worth protected out there. In true honesty, I am giving myself the next 6 months to explore and gain more clarity on what is my own unique gift and how I can best spread the love I have for the beauty of this world and how it all connects and come back to us and our choices and actions.

How do you choose to create a better world?

I have chosen to live a simple life with a minimal imprint, always keeping in mind the bigger picture of my consumption choices and acting accordingly. I almost exclusively shop in second hand stores, bring my reusable bags and containers to the grocery stores and refuse single use items as much as I can. I try to ride my bike more than my car, I go to the local Repair Café and get my stuff fixed instead of getting anything new, I borrow what I occasionally need instead of buying it. I show kindness and compassion to others, in an effort to keep positive energy flowing. I do my best to empower others and show support to people in my life so they can be their best possible self, to the benefit of all. I share my vision of all the beauty I see and feel, hoping it can inspire and uplift others.

This is not a story about trash instead it is a story about creating a better story for the world. We all have the power to create a meaningful story, one of unity, care and respect for all there is!

To join in for an uplifting story or to book workshops:

Canada Take Back Garbage

In  2013,the Bureau of Customs at the Port of Manila intercepted 50 shipping containers declared to be plastic scrap for recycling sent by Chronic Inc., a Whitby, Ont.-based plastics exporter owned by Jim Makris. Upon inspection authorities found containers filled with household garbage, soggy paper and even used adult diapers. The shipment was impounded at Manila International Container Terminal when the shipment was declared junk materials that could pose biohazard risks. The Bureau of Customs stated it is clear that the importer violated the country’s tariff and environmental laws.

The waste sat rotting in containers as outrage in the Philippines grew.

Under the Basel Convention, to which Canada and the Philippines are signatories, it is illegal to ship hazardous waste internationally, except in special circumstances.  The Canadian Embassy to the Philippines said in a statement in 2013 that the Basel Convention and Canadian domestic regulations allows Manila for the shipment to be returned “if they are found to be in contravention with the Convention or cannot be completed in an environmentally sound manner.”

In February of 2014, representatives from the Philippine consulate met with Mr. Makris to discuss the situation. Although the shipment had originally been flagged “because the consignee had submitted incorrect documents for the importation which has a declared value of over $220,000”, Mr. Makris  would speculate that “someone along the chain of delivery wanted to be paid off before his second shipment is allowed through.”

The issue of the rotting waste morphed into a diplomatic hot potato game as Philippine politicians demanded that Canada take back the waste shipment. Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called for an official government inquiry into the Canadian garbage, the country’s Bureau of Customs  threatened legal action while Leah Paquiz, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, issued the statement, “Pick up your garbage Canada, and show us the decency that we so rightfully deserve as a nation. My motherland is not a garbage bin of Canada.”

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, in an email to The National Post, would state they were working with the shipper and the Government of the Philippines to find and solution although “Currently there are no domestic laws which the Government of Canada could apply to compel the shipper to return his containers to Canada.”

Environmental groups protested the lack of action. A petition with 25,000 signatories urged Canada pick up the garbage.

The shipper Chronic Inc did not pick up containers. The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the Bureau of Customs was investigating the 150-worker plant in Valenzuela City started by Makris to sort and sell the plastic he ships.

Greenpeace’s Philippine office released what it called a “damning exposé” — a leaked letter from the country’s Department of Environment showing that Canada and the Philippines were working to have the waste disposed “locally in a landfill.”

In 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday assured the Philippines his government is “developing” a solution to the shipment of tons of Canadian waste to the country, which has been the subject of diplomatic protests filed by Manila “I have obviously been made aware of the situation and I’ve also been told that there is a Canadian solution in the process of being developed,” Trudeau said in a press conference.

Trudeau acknowledged that the incident in the Philippines exposed a “problem” that “needs fixing” within Canada’s own legislation “that we’re going to lean into and make sure it happens.”

“I believe there are loopholes here that were allowed to be skirted that we need to make sure we close, both for Canada’s interest and for our good relationships with our neighbors,” he said.

September 2016, Environmental and labor rights advocates on Monday wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ambassador Neil Reeder to appeal yet again for the return of the controversy-ridden illegal garbage shipments to its origin.

In lieu of the so-called “local solution,” they urged Prime Minister Trudeau to fulfill the “Canadian solution” he alluded to in Nov. 2015 on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in response to a question raised by journalist Tina Monzon Palma regarding the garbage dumping scandal.

“The ‘Canadian solution,’ now more than ever, must categorically include the re-importation of the illegal garbage shipments for environmentally-sound disposal in Canada,” they said.

Is it not time for Canada to be part of the solution and not the problem?

Philippine Judge Alisuag   stated  “our country should not be made a trash bin by (an)other country,”  we at Zero Waste Canada thinks no country should be the trash bin for another country.