Founding Member Spotlight
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Trash Academy’s work is at the intersection of art, community, materials and justice. As enablers of Clean Philadelphia NOW, a campaign to end litter and dumping by 2028, Trash Academy engages citizens to take action and demand the resources and support to keep our neighborhoods and city clean. Trash Academy worked with Circular Philadelphia and others to develop the Waste Free Philly mayoral agenda to create a clean and waste-free future for Philadelphia.
Why did you become a founding member?
Trash Academy is a collaboratory of artists, engaged citizens, representatives of non-profits (and others) who are interested in becoming experts in trash. We are grassroots organizers that investigate trash to expose its drivers and true nature. Then we collaboratively research and develop solutions together. There’s no sweeping trash under the rug or out of sight; it must be “stopped” at the source. The sheer volume and broadly applied word, trash, can be reconsidered, reconceptualized and regulated so materials are seen for their value in the reuse supply chain, successfully diverted for new functions, and redesigned as circular materials from the extraction and production phase of design. Circular Philadelphia is an essential actor, driver, resource and partner in moving Philadelphia in the right direction towards this reframing of trash as valuable materials.
What does a circular economy mean to Trash Academy?
Working with Circular Philadelphia, Clean Water Action and others, we were able to harness the power of working together as the Waste Free Philly coalition to propose a solution to Philly’s epic fail around recycling, zero waste, and dumping and to offer a path forward. Only through circularity can the residents of Philly, who deserve long-term and forward-looking solutions to the epidemic of fugitive trash and dumping, achieve a just future. Circularity is an essential part of ending dumping. Imagine if materials were repurposed and maintained value through recovery and diversion. Imagine if we did not incinerate over 40% of Philadelphia’s trash in Chester.
How is your Trash Academy practicing circularity?
Trash academy runs our own events as zero waste. We only use upcycled materials to make all of our artwork, leveraging the visibility of our artwork to model a captivating aesthetic and reconsideration of what is trash. We have also created semi-permanent structures almost entirely out of upcycled materials headed for the waste stream. This is primarily in service of broadcasting the possibility of shifting to and shedding light on the imperatives of circularity rather than an economic or business model.
How can others advance the circular economy?
Join Circular Philadelphia, pay attention to the life cycle of materials that your business or practice requires, and rethink what you are sourcing. From extraction to production to disposal, all aspects of what we use need to be challenged.