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Photos: Lying On A Week's Worth Of Your Own Garbage

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Photographer Gregg Segal doesn't particularly consider himself an environmental activist, but he is concerned about the amount of trash Americans are producing. (251 million tons in 2012, according to the EPA!) Segal brings this disturbing truth to light in a very jarring way in his latest and ongoing project, "7 Days of Garbage."

For this series that he started shooting in January, the 49-year-old photographer asked neighbors and friends, and even paid some people he didn't know to collect their trash for a week. He wanted a wide-spectrum of people from different age groups, and ethnic and economic backgrounds. (He even included himself and his family in one of the photos.) Segal then built three different sets—a pool, a grassy area, and a sandy-like beach—in his backyard in Altadena, where he arranged the trash around his subjects and then photographed them.

Segal spoke to LAist about what planted the seed for this project. It started because he thought it was worrisome that Americans were producing so much trash and seemed unfazed by the idea of it. "For the most part we are reliably unaware or unconcerned," he said. "We go out to eat lunch and get a to-go container. That to-go container we may use for an hour a day, but if it’s Styrofoam it’s going to be around for a million years."

His subjects varied in how honest they were in collecting their trash. Some "edited" out their trash, he said, where they would leave out the really stinky garbage and only bring in recyclables. However, some were really faithful to the project: during the project, some arrived with tampons or a hypodermic needle for insulin.

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He did encourage his people to bring in their recyclables as well to make a point. "I asked people to bring recycling for several reasons—one of which is that not everything that is designated as recyclable is actually recycled, as evidenced by the Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean, which is an area that is twice the size of Texas that is filled with plastic," Segal said. "A lot of stuff ends up in the ocean which shouldn’t be, and plastic isn’t economically pliable as a recyclable because the amount of energy that is required to recycle plastic kind of negates its value."

Segal plans on building more sets for this project; some ideas he has in mind are a field of wildflowers, a snowy, arctic tundra, and a rocky area.

Aside from this project, he's a photographer for magazines like ESPN, TIME, and Fortune. He's also known for his "Superheroes at Home" series where he snapped juxtaposing pictures of the folks who dress up as superheroes on Hollywood Boulevard looking for tips at home doing mundane chores. A few years back, he also photographed average people who dress up like pirates—while at their day jobs.

[h/t Slate]