An online Russian supermarket is selling waste found on the shores of Lake Baikal in a bid to spotlight the pollution blighting the world’s biggest freshwater lake.
Created by сommunications agency SLD and Russian NGO Moi Baikal, the Supermarket of Waste sells discarded items found by volunteer litter-pickers, including beer cans, batteries, cigarette packs, plastic bags, and toothbrushes.
A plastic bag from the store will set you back £3, while a set of two batteries costs a whopping £110 — 100 times more than their regular retail price. The reason is simple: the prices reflect the cost each items inflicts on the environment, including the money it takes to remake or recycle them.
“Let’s take a tin can as an example,” says Alexander Chumachenko, creative director at SLD agency. “Its price includes the damage of long-term decomposition, and the leakage of chemicals into the soil and water. Now, add the price of sourcing, extracting, and fluxing the ore [for a new can], mixing it with other elements, and the damage that a whole new cycle of production will cause.”
The waste supermarket took almost four months to put together. And although the project was planned as an awareness-raising campaign rather than an actual e-commerce platform, items purchased in the shop can still be physically shipped to buyers desperate to display their finds. In these cases, the item’s price rises once again, to include logistics and the cost of packaging. Luckily, all profits from the project go towards cleaning the lake for future generations.
As well as battling the litter left by some of the two million visitors who journey to Lake Baikal’s shores each year, local activists have also raised the concerns over the area’s lack of a proper waste disposal. Many of the endemic species of sponges responsible for cleaning Baikal’s water have died in recent years, largely due to the high volumes of liquid waste — including fuel and excrement — released into the lake by both ships and tourist sites. As a result, the lake is overpopulated with putrid algae, threatening the area’s biodiversity.