Belgian Photographer Paul Bulteel has a knack for making an industrial, functional process look very beautiful. In his new book, Cycle and Recycle, Bulteel visited 50 recycling plants in Europe to photograph their operations. The results are unexpectedly striking.
Aside from being lovely to look at, the processes documented in this book show just what can be done with our trash, other than piling up in a landfill. As Bulteel says, “Recycling makes us move away from a linear ‘produce, consume and dispose’ economy to a more circular economy in which a product at the end of its lifetime simply becomes raw material for new products.”
Take, for example, the substrate slabs (pictured above) for growing plants. Once they are ready for recycling, according to Bulteel’s book, their component materials are broken down into sub-sets: organic material, stone wood granulate and plastic waste. These are then further divided into what they can be used for next: organic material, bricks and garbage bags. These types of specifics are provided for every image in the book, and give a fascinating insight into how one item can be reused and remade.
Recycling’s complications are mostly hidden from the public. Through Bulteel, we can glimpse parts of this transformation, and it is compelling to look at—not just for the aesthetics but more broadly, for what it represents.