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Basurama: Where Waste takes Centre-Stage

Posted by
on January 28, 2019 at 06:56 AM

© Courtesy of internet resources

Hiding waste from the visible mainstream, keeping it out of sight till it is disposed of via a backdoor has been standard approach to waste management in most parts of the world so far. We don’t want to see the waste we generate even if it builds up to mountainous volumes, which is exactly what happens at our cities’ dumping grounds where garbage assumes unmanageable proportions leading to health hazards and ecological crises.  What if we flipped the situation to train our focus on the waste we generated? What if garbage were to assume centre stage in our lives – become the talk of the town, the star of our shows? Basurama is a group in Spain which has organised itself to do just that – they let waste play protagonist in community programs with a mission to heighten people’s awareness of the waste generated by them.

Based out of Madrid with offices in Sao Paolo (Brazil) and Bilbao (Spain), Basurama is a collective founded in 2001 to essentially address society’s general negligent attitude towards waste through creative participative programs based on research and innovation. Starting with thorough studies of how each type of waste is generated, the team’s research pans across a wide range of issues regarding different forms of consumerist discards, whether physical or virtual, ways to minimise their generation and, most significantly, their afterlife and resultant effects on our living environment. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

What sets Basurama apart is their participative and creative approach to finding solutions to this universal problem, using programs that are full of fun and interest for the participants. Through its lectures, workshops, demonstrations, games, slideshows, projects and seminars Basurama doesn’t just ensure the spread of awareness regarding waste, but also provides a platform for people from different walks of life and varying economic strata to come together, interact and co-create the best outcomes from their waste. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

Moreover, these activities are supported by their research and innovation laboratories which deal with specific applications and creations extricable from different genres of waste. After practising the applications of innovations nurtured in their labs, Basurama proceeds to document and create manuals detailing the step-wise process of creating the respective applications. Having completed more than 120 projects in 40 countries across four continents, Basurama has a young, enthusiastic and bright team which includes many students, volunteers and researchers. 

© Courtesy of internet resources

‘It’s All Yours’ is an example of some of Basurama’s most intriguing projects, conducted at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in 2014. With the intention of putting a finger on all the garbage generated at a museum beyond the visible displays of art in terms of cartons, packages, coupons, entry passes, labels and discarded literature, they created a a pool of this waste at the centre of the Museum’s foyer which was accessible to visitors. They were then encouraged to create ‘souvenirs’ out of items from this pool of waste combined with items from their pockets/ bags – a DIY vacuum packed collage of junk as a contemplative and creative memory of the visit!

© Courtesy of internet resources

Among Basurama’s most fascinating ventures are its intervention projects in public spaces in different countries powered by public participation, where they have created fantastic play parks and installations. A garden attached to a Parish in San Juan, Madrid, was opened to public use after a collaborative between the local administration, neighbourhood groups and Basurama over several weekends of celebratory participation by the locals ended in the creation of a playful ‘romantic bench’ installation. A symposium of students from 20 different universities to study the pervasive application and use of water in typical Arabian urban life in its geographical and social context, supported by local groups of artists, architects and universities, resulted in the participative building of a water circuit with all the complexities of its different elements, using an obsolete water retention plant in the Berlin area, called the Andalusi Wasserspiele. Another wonderful venture saw Basurama support the formation of several ‘Memory Stations’ at CeCrea centres in Chile which are meant for youngsters and children to ‘exercise their right’ to imagination and creativity by building their own play paraphernalia using the city’s trash at redundant city spaces (like unused parking areas) identified by the authorities. There is a long and impressive list of these Basurama ventures, each one more fascinating and revealing of the power of collective imagination.

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

The other admirable precedent set by Basurama is the detailed documentation and instruction manuals of its successful prototypes created from waste like old tyres, disposable plastics and cardboard cartons. The application of tyres can be seen, among several such projects, in a playground in Aranjuez, Spain, where these have been used to create two mountain peaks, a zip-line between them, undulating tracks to reach them, octahedrons, tunnels, seats in the shade and rotating carousels to create kinetic energy – all out of old tyres! 

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

Another application developed by the Basurama research team is the creation of inflatable using disposable supermarket plastic bags and plastic packaging sheets – two icons of consumerist culture - resulting in enormous habitable installations at several places around the world. Projects like ‘Inflate Your Trash’ in Lekeito, Spain and ‘Inhabiting Plastic Oceans’ in Cape Town, South Africa, among many others had children and adults sort and classify the plastic they collected and join them using adhesive tape or heat from a hair straightener to build them into humungous bags which became habitable spaces when inflated.

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

Basurama even has a manual for creating tangrams out of wasted cartons and cardboard sheets! In fact cardboard and cartons have been themes of many of their workshops including a giant Christmas tree in Madrid. A square in Rio de Janeiro was transformed into a playful landscape with the use of barrels. And, canvas sheets with punched holes tied to existing scaffolding create a mock sky in a Madrid plaza!

© Courtesy of internet resources
© Courtesy of internet resources

It’s true that there are no limits to our imagination, and when it is thus pooled up to create eloquent articulation out of discarded junk, the result is purely magical. What a fun way to effect a serious realisation of unmindful consumption and its consequent ills! Basurama takes ‘Best from Waste’ to a whole new level...

© Courtesy of internet resources

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