The Modern Midden: a small piece of Australia’s big waste problem

Interactive installation provokes us to think about the amount of waste we generate.

Australians are the second highest producers of waste per person globally and the estimated 900-plus landfill sites currently operating across Australia are filling up with the items we freely discard each day.

An interactive installation by designer Joanna Stirling provokes us to think about what we contribute to the waste pile and how we might act to reduce the amount of waste we generate.

The Modern Midden is a small part of a big story about waste, putting physical bodies in the same room as the familiar items we often have fleeting contact with, to slow things down, to consider where they might have been, what they are made from, and what was inside of them,” Ms Stirling said.

The installation is centred on a pile of non-organic trash that was generated by 10 families over seven days. Through the course of the exhibition, people are challenged to help sort the pile of trash and consider the resources and energy it took to produce them.

A series of large scale visualisations and a pledge wall surround the installation, which forms part of a research project exploring how design and visual thinking can be used to communicate complex issues and instigate change.

“We put our waste in the bin, it goes out for collection and taken away in a truck. Most of us it seems don’t know where that truck goes or consider what happens to the contents of their red or yellow bin,” Ms Stirling said.

“Although our recycling habits are improving, a large percentage of our waste still goes to landfill in Australia, having many other environmental consequences”
The installation is designed to be mobile and adaptive and has been invited to show at local councils, community centres and schools.

Exhibition period: 26 September – 23 October, weekdays from 9 am – 4 pm
Where: Digital Media Centre, Mike Codd Building, UOW Innovation Campus
Media contact: Joanna Stirling can be contacted on + 61 2 4221 4642, +61 411 306 288 or

About Joanna Stirling
Jo Stirling is a Designer and Lecturer at the University of Wollongong. She works across design, visual arts, creative writing, digital media and journalism. Her research focuses on collaborative creative practice, with a particular interest in design for social change and sustainability. Her current research project The Modern Midden: Visualising Waste through Information Design, explores how visualising information can be employed to address waste generation and product end life in Australia. The project examines how this might be useful to activate social change.