Garbage Matters: A Comparative History of Waste in East Asia

As archaeologists have repeatedly confirmed, garbage is among humanity’s most prodigious of physical legacies, a valuable source for the study of the past. Separating the unwanted from the desirable and getting rid of waste are part of the central routines of everyday life in every civilization. During the last half century, this obscured aspect of human existence has become increasingly conspicuous.

Under the alarmist rhetoric of environmentalists, the dramatically expanding volume of garbage has become a truly global problem, reaching far beyond the first-world economies of Europe and North America with their long-established consumer markets. As the standard of living in East Asia rises, so does the volume of garbage generated by the new generations of consumers in the region.

The overall aim of this project is to examine waste as a social phenomenon in contemporary East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan), and to explore the historical shifts behind the transformation of practices related to the ‘production’ and disposal of garbage since the Second World War.


Lecture: the Japanese culture of giving

On the closing day of the popular exhibition ‘Too Pretty to Throw Away’ – still on view until Sunday August 28 – Prof. Dr. Katarzyna J. Cwiertka will hold a public lecture at SieboldHuis Leiden, Rapenburg 19. The lecture will be given on August 28 between 2 – 3 PM and is called “Japanse warenhuizen en de cadeaucultuur” – Japanese department stores and the culture of giving. The lecture will be in Dutch. In the early decades of the 20th century, the first big department stores opened in Japan, based on the so-called ‘Grands Magasins’ of Paris, London, Philadelphia and New York. In that time, large department stores were the summum of modernity with their lavish product presentations and technical innovations like elevators and escalators. However, nowadays, Japanese department stores are presenting themselves as guardians of Japanese traditions, a point stressed by the importance put on formal gift giving. In this lecture, Prof. Cwiertka will talk on how this change has taken place. Attending lecture is free after entering the SieboldHuis museum. Please register through the following link: Japanse warenhuizen en de cadeaucultuur. Lecture: Japanse warenhuizen en de cadeaucultuur, Prof. Katarynza Cwiertka When: August 28 2016, 2-3 PM Where: SieboldHuis, Rapenburg 19,...

To Pretty to Throw Away

From June 10 until August 28, 2016, the Garbage Matters Project features Too Pretty to Throw Away, an exhibition on Japanese product packaging, in collaboration with Japanmuseum Sieboldhuis in Leiden and Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Cracow. The curators of the exhibition are Dr. Ewa Machotka and Prof. Dr. Katarzyna J. Cwiertka, both affiliated with Leiden University. After closing in Leiden on 28 August, the exhibition will re-open in Cracow on 9 November. Product packaging forms a fascinating part of Japan’s consumer culture. Whereas modern-day technologies and marketing strategies often determine their form, the design is frequently inspired by decorative motifs such as those found on art objects from the past. The aesthetics of packaging is also strongly influenced by Japanese traditions of gift-wrapping.. Too Pretty to Throw Away: Packaging Design from Japan illustrates through museum objects, consumer items and gift wrappings, how past and present are united in packaging design. See more at the website of SieboldHuis: Too Pretty to Throw Away: Packaging Design from...


Film and Documentary Screening

Film and Documentary Screening Waste in Asia Conference 2016 where: Lipsius building, room 003 when: Thursday, 9 June, 2016 time: 19:00-21:00 o’clock ALL WELCOME! Programme No Doggy Bag Please, 2015, by Hingman Leung (prod./dir.), 16 mins. With a short introduction by the maker. Tyres, 2013, by Kyaw Myo Lwin (dir.) and Yangon Film School (prod.), 33 mins. With a short introduction by Rebecca Tompkins. Eating Out and Food Waste in Bangalore, 2016, by Marlyne Sahakian (dir.), 6 mins. Eating Out and Food Waste in Metro Manila, 2015, by Marlyne Sahakian (dir.), 5 mins. Waste Management and Recycling in Bangalore, 2016, by Marlyne Sahakian (dir.), 7 mins. With a short introduction by Tammara Soma. Refuse and Daily Life, 1960, by Seiji Koyama (dir.), 19 mins. With a short introduction by Kohei...

Masanobu Ishikawa

Waste in Asia 2016 Conference Opening & Keynote Address : How and Why Waste Matters in Asia: An Economic Point of View Masanobu Ishikawa, Kobe University Bio: Professor Ishikawa is a professor of environmental economics at the Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University, and sits as an expert on recycling on a number of councils and committees including the MOE, MAFF and METI. He has served as the president of the Society of Packaging Science and Technology, Japan (2004-2008) and as a council member of the Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association since its foundation in 1996. He was awarded the Best Paper Award in 1997 and the Society Award in 2002 from the Society of Packaging Science and Technology Japan. In 2006, he established an NPO, Gomi-jp, which aims to reduce waste through social re-design. Gomi-jp was awarded the Good Design Award in 2007, the Prime Minister’s Prize at the 3Rs Promotion Merit Awards in 2014 and the Golden Prize of the Minister of the Environment in the 2015 Low Carbon Cup. Abstract: Waste matters everywhere in the world, but especially in Asia. World cities generate 1.3 billion tons of solid waste (MSW), and this figure is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tons by 2025 (World Bank 2012). Because of this rapid increase in MSW, waste management costs will increase from $205.4 billion in 2012 to $373.5 billion by 2025 (World Bank 2012). MSW generation in Asia comprises 38% of global waste generation, a share that will increase to 50% by 2025. Asia is characterized by a wide variety of climates, cultures, histories, economic developments, and types...


Waste in Asia Conference: Discussing Waste as a Global/Local Phenomenon

Between 9 and 11 June 2016, the conference Waste in Asia was held at Leiden University. The conference was organized by Prof. Katarzyna J. Cwiertka and hosted by the Garbage Matters Project. Twenty-nine speakers from around the world – including Taiwan, China, Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands – gathered to discuss waste-related issues ranging from food waste in China and Indonesia, to recycling in Taiwan, to the representation of waste in film and literature in the Philippines and Korea. Waste was investigated both as an end product and as an object of transformation, or even a resource. Participants debated the ambivalence of waste and the ways in which waste circulates within and between countries. For an impression of the conference, please check out the pictures that are published on our website...

Conference has come to a close

The ‘Waste in Asia 2016‘ conference has come to a close and we wish to thank all speakers and participants of the Waste in Asia conference. We had a great time in Leiden meeting you all! Watch this space for the follow-up activities of the Waste in Asia conference, or have a look at our Garbage Matters on Facebook page. For those of you not attending ‘Waste in Asia’, the exhibition ‘Too pretty to throw away: Packaging design from Japan‘, linked to this conference, is still on view in the SieboldHuis in Leiden until August 28,...

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