Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash (Humes)

 I’ve been interested in trash every since I took part in a house project a Treehouse member put on last year. The idea was to carry around a bag with you for a week and to see all of the trash you accumulated. I tried not to buy anything disposable that week and was amazed that there were some things I couldn’t avoid. It feels like everything I purchased had some form go packaging. It mad eke understand why some people have called us “the plastic generation” because our dependency on petroleum-made products is so great.
Last semester while working on a project, I talked with a man from SWACO (the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio) which runs the landfills for central Ohio.  I was surprised to learn that the landfills they have there are quickly filling up, at this pace SWACO only has twenty years of use left to it. (Sidenote: if anyone would like to tour it, they give free tours to groups of ten or more). It feels as though the amount of trash we have is exponentially increasing.

Anyways, I really enjoyed this book. I like that it was written in a creative and somewhat humorous way. It was informative and helped me to delve into an issue I really care about.

My favorite section would have to be in Part 3, chapter 9: Pick of the Litter. There Humes focused on the recycled art community in San Francisco, specifically, the AIR (Artist-in-Residence) program at the San Francisco dump.  Described as the “brainchild” of the 1970s activist Jo Hansen, it is now a competitive program to get into where only two people are residents for four four months (so six people yearly).

Here’s some of the artwork that has come from the dump, including an entirely styrofoam hummer (upper left) by Andrew Junge that has toured the nation.

Here’s one of the pieces the artist Niki Uleha worked on while she was in the AIR program in early 2011.  She was the one Humes follows while writing this book. In her artist statement she said, “I make objects so that they can exist outside my brain. I make puppets so that they can be animated. I do that so that people can see this and form memories.”


I think an taking an artist’s approach to trash is one of the real ways we can reduce our waste impact. It’s worked for San Francisco and several “copycat cities” so why not make sure every capital in the U.S. has a similar program? Think of all of the waste it would divert.

One of my favorite excerpts was when Humes wrote, “[Niki was] scanning with a practiced eye the treasures untreasured by luck or death or poverty or time or boredom or age. All of these objects had stories to tell, or so she imagined..” (170).

Overall, I enjoyed this book and the alternatives Humes explored.

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