Visual number crunching: a graphic look at what we waste.

Allen’s earlier post on the issue of “waste”, reminded me of an interesting art exhibit I read about at my blog. Here we have Chris Jordan, an artist from Seattle, who frequently plays on visual perspective using digital manipulation. His work is really quite striking, as an educational tool generally, but also as a “kick in the ass” commentary.

For instance, this one is called, “Plastic Bottles, 2007” with a postscript that reads “Number of bottles used in the US every 5 minutes.”


And here it is zoomed up, so that you can actually see the bottles, translating to the “that is freakin’ unreal” 2 million bottles per 5 minutes, in the US alone, a significant portion of which are likely dicarded.


Chris writes:

This new series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 426,000 cell phones retired every day. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. My underlying desire is to affirm and sanctify the crucial role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

Clearly, this would be something that is even more powerful in person, but it’s certainly worth checking out virtually at the very least. Apart from images on plastic bag use (see below), there’s also graphic representations of aluminum cans, cell phones, plain old 11 x 7 office paper…


“Plastic Bags, 2007” Depicts 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds.

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David (@ng_dave) is Faculty at the Michael Smith Labs. His writing has appeared in places such as McSweeney's, The Walrus, and He plans on using Terry as another place to highlight the mostly science-y links he appreciates. In fact, if you liked this one, you might also like his main site generally - this can be found at