A typical photograph designed to showcase trash might show an overflowing landfill, or an e-waste dump in Ghana or China where people pick apart the world’s discarded gadgets by hand. Belgian photographer Paul Bulteel wanted to focus on an aspect of trash that’s gotten less attention—what happens at state-of-the-art recycling centers throughout Europe.
To make a new book called Cycle and Recycle, Bulteel spent a year and a half traveling around Europe, visiting around 50 centers recycling everything from tires and circuit boards to foam.
“The photography of this subject was almost always from a negative point of view,” he says. “Of course, rightfully so, because a lot has happened and is happening that is harmful to people and to the environment. But the recycling angle, as far as I know, there has never been a project to handle that in depth.”
The project began in 2013, when he stumbled on a pile of crushed building materials in Antwerp. “I was intrigued afterwards by the strange beauty of the subject, and also by the social relevance, because it points to the enormous quantities of all kinds of goods that we are just throwing away,” he says.
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