Orange fish in the ocean - photo by Hiroko Yoshii - photo by Hiroko Yoshii

The American Landscape: The Background Story

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Growing up, I always had a fascination with what happened to garbage. Everything people did produced waste of one sort or another, and everyone knew they were going to produce trash with every little action they made, whether it was sharpening a pencil or eating lunch. It was such a mysterious topic: No one talked about trash because no one wanted it. They threw it away, so why in the world would people spend time willingly discussing it? But I had so many questions.

There was such a pattern to something I knew so little about; everything you don't want goes in the trash. The same day every single week, a huge truck with two men would come by and collect everyone's trash. Did people all over the world have the same trash day, or were the days different all over the planet? Why did we all produce so much stuff all the time if we were simply going to throw it away?

I remember learning about litter from my dad. We were driving on a highway when I was a child, and a potato chip bag hit our windshield just as an official highway sign warned, "NO LITTERING – $1000 FINE." My dad told me that lazy, careless people litter and that it was something I should never do because the earth had never been anything but kind to me. This memory has always stuck with me, and I like to think of my dad's words as the fertilizer that helped grow the seeds of my questions into the matured environmental cares they are today.

As I educated myself on the environment and waste and recycling, I noticed more and more that trash is everywhere. Most people I knew never seemed to pass the questioning phase of the discussion about garbage that I went through and instead mindlessly produced trash without another thought. True, it is impossible to live in modern American society and not produce waste. But so many people around me simply did not care that they were producing so much of it, let alone about the environmental impacts of the many things they discarded.

Along with this mindless production of waste, I noticed around me the need to keep buying and buying more and more goods. I saw the same logos and brands over and over again, and upon looking into the corporations and companies behind these products, I saw a trend that put profits before the environment. This went against everything I learned from my dad as a child and my studies of the environment.

In this photo gallery, The American Landscape, I am highlighting some of the world's most powerful and well-known corporations, as well as the waste their products create.

Each photo showcases some of the most common trash in the United States, and each caption shows the environmental damage that goes along with the type of trash in the photos. When viewing these images, I would like all Americans to associate the corporate products they buy – and then throw away – as having an effect on the environment. Some brand labels are intentionally out of focus or not the most easily viewed, as this shows just how commonplace the products are: General shape or color scheme can make many items recognizable. All of the items photographed here were found in trash and waste bins around Washington, D.C.

All images are copyright protected and may not be reproduced without permission. All images are courtesy of Cristina Kladis.

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