Garbage Matters

Notes on Garbage matters: Concepts in new geographies of waste

Abstract key points:

  • good waste vs. bad waste
  • how these distinctions can shape and ‘rematerialize’ the possibilities of waste socially, politically, and geographically
  • concept of “new geographies” of waste

Intro: “the political potentials inherent in a geography of things”


  • What waste is and how, why and to whom does it matter?
  • Interest in the materiality of waste in literal and constructed forms
  • waste as a disruptive object as well as a parallax object (one which takes on shifting meanings or interpretations depending on the perspective)
  • Focus: aspects of hygiene, cleanliness, and sanitation and how they exist through exclusionary orders


  1. Waste and its conceptual value comprised by its
    1. Positive value: degree of hazardousness (more of a literal value, inherent characteristics)
    2. Negative value: social, political, economic relativity (more conceptual, denoted by their opposition to something)

-The points made in the abstract and intro about the role and potentials of waste recalls the discussions of ‘what makes a wilderness.’ The idea of having a near infinite quantity of ‘nothingness objects’–so many that there are literal geographical accumulations of ‘useless things’ is interesting. Although, rather than describing it as ‘unwanted, unusable’ land, Moore classifies it as more of a ‘frontier’ to be explored. She sees a great deal regeneration in waste management.

Quadrant I:

    • positivity/dualist spectrum waste (positive); “something that is largely external to society”
    • Waste as hazard, commodity, resource, object of mgmt, archive


  • HAZARD: Sociospatial issues within waste mgmt: the predominant disposal of waste in the areas of marginalized and low income areas (dualist issue)


    • ex: the disposal of toxic chemicals onto American Indian lands, therein compromising drinking water on some reservations
    • RESOURCE: Scavengers informally collect or recycle, the use of animal products for fertilizer, issue of incorporating informal into large scale mgmt
      • Scavengers in Brazil for ex. contribute to the economy with their collecting and recycling
      • politics of inclusion regarding formal vs. informal recycling. The objects recycled, the waste available, and the labor to do so vary
      • ***A place of potential inclusion

-The idea of waste as a lead-in to socio-economic inclusion or mobility makes me recall an exhibit at the Wexner center a few years back. Cruzamentos was comprised of all Brazilian artists contributing comment on the socio/political/economic/racial state of Brazil. In the cities, because so many people are living in poverty, many residents take trash and invent it into a new use, like window made from a tire or a door hinge pin made from a screwdriver. A whole wall of photos exhibited this occurrence. The act of doing so has its own word that only exists in Brazilian Portuguese.

  • COMMODITY: wastes reentrance as product into the market
    • waste trade: waste that exists as both hazard and commodity
    • to be considered: issues of “regulation at the local, national, and international levels”
    • waste mgmt for urban sustainability, community-based, private
    • admitting waste can and should be managed by the institution will lead to solutions with agency
  • Waste and colonialism: “notions of waste have played an important part in excluding certain groups of people from specific social, political, and physical spaces”
  • The act of throwing out and trash because it is “filthy” and “smelly” is a social construction. By avoiding care for our trash, we discard it in ways that makes it more of a hazard. We have been culturally conditioned to act like trash is no longer our responsibility once its product purpose has been served.
  • Waste as fetish: “It is unclear, here, if and how waste can avoid a spatial fix (Harvey, 2006) that continues to distance and alienate it from many sectors of society and render it inert as a political object. Remedying problems with waste, therefore, requires that political action ‘address[es] the broader forces that make waste distancing a normal and accepted pattern of everyday industrial life”
  • Waste is stigmatized as an excess which ‘disturbs the smooth running of things’.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: