Globalisation and consumer culture

Did you know that Germany is in 10th place on the list of the most rubbish producing countries per person, with New Zealand in 4th place, just behind the USA, Denmark and Luxembourg? Chile, on the other hand, is in 26th place. However, if you look at the World Waste Index, (which takes recycling and other utilization into account) Chile is in 3rd place. New Zealand also performs rather miserably here, Turkey the worst.

Chile is the country that recycles the least. I know, numbers are annoying, but it makes it clear that it’s not just countries like Chile that have a waste problem. We all have a waste problem. And actually, I don’t want to write about too many facts and analyses, tables, well you could certainly criticize those too. But one thing is clear. The issue is here to stay. We will continue to produce waste and need solutions. I don’t have any, but I am concerned about the attitude of many travellers to the issue of rubbish and their accusatory words towards the population, our “hosts”.

The topic is neither new nor particularly nice, but it triggers most people and then it’s easy to pass the blame: it’s not us who are to blame for the problem, it’s the others.

What arrogance. What cheek!

We are so privileged to be able to travel to these countries and be welcomed. And then we complain? There are countless projects in these countries that deal with recycling. Whether in India, Turkey or Chile. But do we look at them? Do we support these projects? In most cases, probably not. It would involve a lot of effort and, after all, we are on holiday. And besides all that, it’s not about Gucci or Dior, it’s only about rubbish. A topic that is not all that sexy. Who wants bags made from rubbish, shoes made from rubbish or jewellery made from old discarded plastic?

The Atacama Desert in Chile is suffocating in our clothing waste. Rubbish that does not originally come from South America .

Let’s take a more philosophical look at rubbish!

Rubbish: When does something become rubbish? 

Rubbish is not originally rubbish. Every piece of it was once a useful object, produced with an intention and a purpose. Rubbish only arises when an object loses its usefulness and is thrown away. This transformation from useful object to waste is the result of our consumer behaviour and the throwaway culture. Rubbish therefore becomes rubbish through our decision to no longer use it and to consider it worthless.


Rubbish reminds us of the transience of material things. What was once useful or even chic eventually becomes superfluous and decays. This reflects the natural cycle of life, where everything that comes into being ultimately also passes away.

Value and worthlessness!

What is rubbish depends very much on the observer. For some, this object may seem worthless, while others may see it as materials or moulds for artistic or practical purposes. What we call rubbish is therefore a subjective view.

Environment and sustainability!

Rubbish is made from valuable resources. A waste of resources? How responsibly do we use our resources?

Creativity and reuse!

An idea of the eternal cycle and transformation. Rubbish can be seen as a symbol of creativity and reuse. New things can be created if you think creatively and resource-orientated. An emotional rethink would help. Thinking about a piece of rubbish can lead us beyond the ecological and practical aspects to philosophical themes such as transience, value and creativity.

Perhaps rubbish would then take on a different significance in our society. A way from “out of sight out of mind” and a certain disgust factor back to the actual value of this bottle.

It’s everywhere and always there: rubbish!

The rubbish we produce every day does not simply disappear. It is merely shifted from our households to landfill sites, into the oceans and into the atmosphere. This shift has led to waste becoming a global problem. Plastic islands float in the world’s oceans, micro plastic particles are found in the food chain, and toxic chemicals contaminate soils and water sources. Yet despite these obvious threats, waste often remains invisible or is deliberately ignored.

Rubbish and responsibility!

An important point when considering waste is the question of responsibility. It is easy to blame companies, governments or other countries. But the rubbish we see is our rubbish. Each and every one of us contributes to waste production and therefore has a responsibility to do something about it. It’s not “the others” in Peru or Chile who are causing the problem – it’s all of us. Responsibility starts with ourselves. And yes, I also look at the plastic water bottles we buy every day and you with your camper vans, take a look in your cupboards to see how many cans or bottles are still valuable but will soon be worthless rubbish.

Rubbish is a reflection of our societies!

In the “modern” world, rubbish is omnipresent. We encounter it on streets, in parks, on beaches and even in the remotest corners of the earth. But rarely do we stop to think about the deeper meaning and far-reaching consequences of our waste problem. Litter is more than just an environmental problem – it is a reflection of our society, our consumption habits and ultimately our values.

Take Coca Cola!

We humans have utilised the freedom to make consumer goods easily accessible. We define ourselves by the options we choose. This freedom brings with it the responsibility to take responsibility for our actions and their consequences. Litter is a direct result of human activity and therefore also a product of our freedom. Every discarded bottle, every piece of plastic is proof that we have to make choices and have to take responsibility. 

Globalisation and consumer culture

Coca-Cola is probably one of the world’s best-known symbols of globalisation and consumer culture. The plastic bottle, dilapidated and lying in the sand, symbolises the environmental impact of plastic waste.  A short-lived pleasure but long-term damage. What about the balance between our use and the environmental impact?

Coca-Cola as a symbol not only stands for a drink, but also for a certain way of life and ideology. Will our descendants, who will hopefully be able to solve the waste problem, see us as an indifferent, ignorant consumer society?

Seen through my personal lens, the abandoned Coca-Cola bottle becomes a symbol for many of the challenges and issues that affect our society.


Chile is also known for its geoglyphs, figures moulded on the ground, drawn in lines or formed by roads and paths. These presumably have religious significance or are linked to astronomy. And what did Coca Cola? Managed to design one like this in the desert with it’s Logo from used glass bottles.
The Coca Cola logo in the Atacama Desert near Arica. A bit of an end-time feeling. 70,000 bottles are said to have been used for this logo. It is now almost 40 years old.
World’s Largest Coca-Cola Logo!

“What is art?” and “How do we distinguish art from rubbish?”


Abstract sculptures in the desert: Tutelares.

These sculptures stand in a barren desert landscape. And without the context, there is plenty of room for interpretation. Perhaps a metaphor for human existence in an often empty and meaningless world?  The placement in the desert could allude to isolation and loneliness?

Abandoned structures

At first glance, the rusty old toilets in the desert look like rubbish. But from an artistic perspective, they could be seen as a criticism of the throwaway society. They symbolise the remnants of human civilisation and raise questions about environmental protection and sustainability. 

Art as a subjective experience

What someone perceives as art depends on their own perception and emotional reaction. Both images could evoke different reactions depending on who is looking at them.

The purpose of art

The purpose of art is to convey feelings. The abstract sculptures and the rusty toilets could serve as a means of expressing feelings of loneliness, isolation, transience or even criticism of society.

Art and environment

When we know that these works have been created by people and possibly carry a deeper message, we look at them differently than if we were to view them as random rubbish. Art is a means of communication, and even supposed rubbish can take on new, deeper meanings in an artistic context.

So perhaps we can manage to no longer dispose of rubbish unsuspectingly and disregard it, but to change our attitude towards it to the effect that we ourselves put many more objects that are no longer used in their original context to a different use.  Or simply do without plastic bags completely. Even with tomatoes or apples from the market.


We’ve been in Peru for a few days now, on our way to Lima, and I’ve had plenty of time to think about the issue on the lonely roads, with the desert on my right and the sea on my left. 

It almost seems as if we could really like it here too. Country number 22.

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