IMAGE COURTESY OF EUGENIJUS BARZDZIUS
www.eugenijusb.com / @eugenijusb
From the series LDPE (Low-density polyethylene) – “People are becoming more and more conscious of plastic waste. Accumulated amounts of it are the source material for new products but in between, there are recycling processes operated by people. One of the biggest plastic recycling factories in the EU is in Vilnius, Lithuania, with a production history of over 50 years. The facility contains in itself the Soviet past with a few remaining workers who are have been there since the very start. With the independence of the country, there came ownership changes in the facility and at the same time optimisation of the production. But noisy, smelly and dusty conditions are tuned up with make-shift imagination for old and even for new machinery. The constant need for a labour force that would take 12-hour shifts in production lines attracts people from very different walks of life: from social margins to top managers who wanted to change their careers. Low salaries and hard conditions in the recycling process lines are also a bridge of opportunities for a cheaper labour force from Ukraine that comes for three month periods with the hope of extending their work permits. High consumption generates high quantities of plastic waste but to run the factory 24×7 it is required to import plastic waste from other countries in the region. And the majority of recycled products are sold back to the EU countries and beyond. The high paced recycling processes were examined with photographic ,,waste” material – a slow speed outdated film in order to recycle it for a new life.”
Editor’s comment: Taken from a clever project about plastic waste, Eugenijus subverts the traditions of portraiture and high-concept fashion photography to create something a little surreal but with an important underlying message. Here a plastic recycling factory worker is enveloped in waste, almost drowning in it and yet clinging onto it as a means of earning a living. It is both an ode to the hard-working, underpaid people who keep our world of material consumption going, and a reminder of the troubling reality of it. All told in a playful, unexpected way.