Keep the Rubbish Out

caleb rabadan
Lucy HG Solomon

Abstract

My data visualization focuses on the exchange of waste between the United States and China. The time period depicted is from 1996 to the projected future date of 2028. By graphing the populations of both countries’ respective waste generation per capita and the percentage of that waste that is recycled, the data visualization paints a picture of the import and export relationship between both countries. The numbers are staggering, and my visualization is meant to make this data discernible. In the United States, recyclables account for one of the country’s largest exports by volume per year, which, now that it is no longer bought by China, has displaced nearly 111 million tons of plastic waste. By graphing this data I highlight the problem of a recycling industry that is one-directional. This data visualization is intended to spread awareness and to spark a conversation about what methods can be put into place to ensure that accumulated waste does not have a harmful effect on the environment.

When looking at data, it can be hard to draw conclusions. By translating global and country-specific datasets visually, a narrative emerges. In the graphic depiction, the circles show the total population, with the inner portions that are shaded representing the amount of waste we use measured against the population. The vertical alignment progresses through the years, with the bars showing how much the United States exports, how much China imports, and what that relationship looks like. The chart is intended to convey more concisely the long-term impact of the export of plastic waste to China, in order to emphasize that action needs to be taken immediately to address this—not only for global economic balance but for our planet as well.

 
Nov 23rd, 8:00 AM Nov 23rd, 8:45 AM

Keep the Rubbish Out

127

My data visualization focuses on the exchange of waste between the United States and China. The time period depicted is from 1996 to the projected future date of 2028. By graphing the populations of both countries’ respective waste generation per capita and the percentage of that waste that is recycled, the data visualization paints a picture of the import and export relationship between both countries. The numbers are staggering, and my visualization is meant to make this data discernible. In the United States, recyclables account for one of the country’s largest exports by volume per year, which, now that it is no longer bought by China, has displaced nearly 111 million tons of plastic waste. By graphing this data I highlight the problem of a recycling industry that is one-directional. This data visualization is intended to spread awareness and to spark a conversation about what methods can be put into place to ensure that accumulated waste does not have a harmful effect on the environment.

When looking at data, it can be hard to draw conclusions. By translating global and country-specific datasets visually, a narrative emerges. In the graphic depiction, the circles show the total population, with the inner portions that are shaded representing the amount of waste we use measured against the population. The vertical alignment progresses through the years, with the bars showing how much the United States exports, how much China imports, and what that relationship looks like. The chart is intended to convey more concisely the long-term impact of the export of plastic waste to China, in order to emphasize that action needs to be taken immediately to address this—not only for global economic balance but for our planet as well.