I've started reading "Garbage Land," and I have to say, trash is a lot more interesting than I would have thought! Or maybe it's just that Elizabeth Royte makes it interesting. One of the more fascinating points she brings up is about the history of trash. At the beginning of the twentieth century- reducing, reusing and recycling wasn't just for the environmentally conscious, but was built into the fabric of society. Virgin resources were expensive, so people reused everything. Food waste was fed to pigs, even in New York City, which was home to 100,000 pigs in the late 1800s. Chicken bones were given to the rag and bone man. In short, one hundred years ago, society was set up for reuse, whereas today's society is set up for disposability. Royte offers us some hard statistics about our disposable culture: According to the EPA, the average American throws out 4.5 pounds of garbage per day.
4.5 pounds! How much did my garbage weigh, I started to wonder. I feel like I'm relatively conscious of what I throw out, but doesn't everyone think they throw out less than they actually do?
So for one week, starting today, I'm keeping a diary of everything I'm throwing or recycling. I'm going to do it for both home and work, but only the stuff at home is getting weighed because I'm not carting my work trash home to weigh. And since I don't have a kitchen scale, the trash is getting weighed on a bathroom scale, so I'm only going to have a rough idea of what it weighs, but I still think it will be illuminating. I'm also interested in this from an anthropological point of view, because doesn't everyone say that your trash says a lot about who you are? From half a day of diarying, I can already tell you, that my trash is telling me that I'm an obsessive tea drinker. Ah well. A girl's gotta have a few vices.
4 weeks ago