One Second of Convenience, 500 Years in the Landfill

I bought a veggie sandwich to go yesterday. At the very second I ordered, 2,628 other people throughout the United States also bought take-out food. According to the MSLK Design Firm, most carryout meals are packed in non-recyclable and non-compostable materials such as styrofoam, which can take five centuries to decompose in a landfill.

MSLK, a New York-based marketing and design firm committed to sustainable design, believes that people can better understand the damage done to the environment during one second than the enormous annual numbers we see all the time. Especially when environmental degradation is illustrated with objects from their everyday lives.

MSLK, which practices what it preaches by using wind power in its office and eco-friendly materials in its work, is on a mission to raise awareness about our unnecessary use of plastic and the waste it produces For this project, the designers asked people in neighboring office buildings to save their fast food and take-out containers, napkins and utensils. Then they mounted the throwaways on the numbers 2629, each number is is built of plywood which is 8′ high by 4′ wide.

Artist's photo of MSLK's installation

Artist's photo of MSLK's installation standing upright. It depicts the amount of take-out waste generated in one second.

The result? The “Take-Less” installation. The work also suggests eco-friendly alternatives to cut down on take-out waste: eat at home, dine in restaurants, support businesses that use sustainable packaging materials–compostable and recyclable containers. “Take-Less” will be displayed horizontally on a lush green lawn to remind viewers that our green spaces are being replaced by landfills.

Installation of numbers

Installation shown as exhibited. Do the math: 2,629 non-recyclable containers per second could fill this field faster than you can say, "Make that to go, please."

It will be exhibited at the upcoming Figment Art Festival on Governor’s Island in NYC on June 11-13. Take-Less will be displayed again at the DUMBO Arts Festival in Brooklyn, NYC, on September 24-26.

“Take-Less” is the third in MSLK’s series of eco-installations representing the amount of plastic consumed in one second in the U.S. In 2009 they created “Watershed” out of 1,500 disposable plastic water bottles, and in 2008, “2663 Urban Tumbleweeds,” a half-mile long chain of plastic shopping bags.

Visit the MSLK website to learn more about their designs for the environment and other projects.

No Responses to “One Second of Convenience, 500 Years in the Landfill”

  1. Reena Kazmann said:

    Jun 10, 10 at 6:33 pm

    As a result of this information, I’ve begun carrying a tupperware box to restaurants to bring restaurant leftovers when I go out to eat.

  2. Tuesday Phillips said:

    Jun 16, 10 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve started to do this too. There is a vegan place I frequent on a weekly basis and while there food is naturally sustainable, their packaging is not so good for the planet. They allow me to leave two clean tupperware containers with them, so when I order they have something to place my food in. Works out great!

  3. Reena Kazmann said:

    Jun 16, 10 at 10:24 pm

    That’s interesting. I learned from someone who works for a recycling business that most restaurants will allow you to bring a tupperware container to the restaurant for leftovers from you plate. But they will not accept your tupperware when dishing out food for you to take out because they say it is not sanitary. I don’t get it. I thought about bringing oilcloth or plastic cloth to Subway but checked them out on the web and learned these cloths are not healthy to hold food. Now I haven’t studied this chemistry–but will accept the conclusion for now.


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