When we talk about waste, we are used to the story skipping from A to Z, from PET bottle to fleece sweater or from mixed waste to a blind spot. However, in the process of fast progress we now have an array of materials at hand which the earth cannot take back or which chemistry cannot efficiently transform. Landfill has become the hiding place of the waste we cannot systematically digest.
For many decades (and in some countries up until now), landfill has been the most common and cheap method to get rid of waste. When a landfill site reaches its maximum capacity, it’s covered with protective layers, soil and plants to integrate this newly constructed landscape in the surrounding area. The artificial and the natural collide in vertically stacked layers.
In this deliberate act of concealing, the confrontation with the true accumulation of waste has been lost. There is no visible connection between our consumerist habits and its impact on the landscape. No reminder, no image lingering in the back of our heads that withholds us from the next short-lived purchase.
Following the Council Directive 1999/31/EC implemented in 1999, the EU has established that the landfilling of municipal waste has to be gradually limited to 10% by 2035. This practice should become a marginal phenomenon giving priority to the new waste hierarchy otherwise referred to as the 3R’s: reducing, reusing and recycling. However, the hills and holes resulting from years of landfill will, identifiable or not, shape the landscape for good.
With the photographic project “Strata” Laura Van Severen shows the result of an encounter with the open wound of an inefficient system. Before the waste is concealed and sealed into an eternal time bubble, the photographs give a glimpse of landfill’s inside structure, portrayed against the backdrop of several EU countries who face highly divergent challenges in minimising this practice due to their different geographical, demographic and political contexts.