In a previous environmental project I worked on, a participant commented that he wasn’t so concerned with “sustainability”, but that he hated waste. And who could argue with that? After all, if something can still be used, shouldn’t it be? Why should perfectly usable products go to a landfill?
Yet this article in Wired was a real eye-opener. It follows Matt Malone, a “professional” dumpster diver who rescues high-end electronics from the bin for the thrill of the hunt, profit, and–I hope–a dislike of waste. It also introduced me to the work of William L. Rathje and the University of Arizona’s Garbage Project, along with the associated book Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage.
As an archaeologist by training, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that I’ve found myself interested in rubbish – it’s what archaeologists deal with on a daily basis (just a bit older than what we find on a rubbish walk!). I’ve have only read a little bit so far, but Rathje and Murphy make the point that you can learn a lot about a civilization by looking at their rubbish – what does it say about modern society that we produce so much waste?
I also picked up Ed Humes’ Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, and I am looking forward to reporting back about both of these over the next few months.