Edward Humes: ‘Garbology’
(pg. 6) ‘The purchases that drive the markets, the products that prove the dream, all come packaged in instant trash (the boxes, wrappers, bags, ties, bottles, caps and plastic bubbles that contain products). And what’s inside that packaging is destined to break, become obsolete, get used up or become unfashionable in a few years, months, or even days- in other words, rapidly becoming trash, too.’
I really like the wording here in the first part of this excerpt. Humes writes, ‘the products that prove the dream’. Capitalism, consumerism, and the pursuit of happiness go hand and hand with waste. Waste is the byproduct of a quality of life that we as Americans attempt to attain in this country. It is becoming more evident in the research that is being presented that the rate at which we are producing waste is becoming unsustainable.
Humes goes on to write about the ‘unfashionability’ that can quickly occur with our consumer products such as with TVs. It is as if there is a new better TV produced every 6 months that relegates the perfectly fine TV that you had before to a status of being old and dated.
(pg. 28) ‘To put this in perspective, the very first documented trash crisis dates back 2,500 years to the ancient Greek capital of Athens, where city fathers grew alarmed by citizens’ habit of hurling their refuse out of windows and doors where it clogged alleys, streets and walkways (a common practice in ancient cities and, until relatively recently, almost every modern city).’
I have a couple things to note on this excerpt. First, it’s fascinating to me how much of our modern day concerns were evident in a society that was living 2,500 years ago. Something so mundane as trash removal. It is easy to read accounts of history and forget the daily routines of people’s lives as they try to survive and make a living. Secondly, I asked myself, how stupid were these people for simply throwing all of their waste onto the street, but even in modern times many people still do the same thing out of laziness or a lack of concern. I doubt the general population was also aware of the many health concerns that come with such practices given the lack of scientific knowledge at this time in history.
(pg. 58) ‘The smog had grown so bad that by then that it became nearly impossible to dry clothes successfully on outdoor laundry lines without them absorbing a rain of black soot.’
Humes writes earlier in the paragraph that it took all the way up until 1957 to pass ordinances in this city to stop the use of personal incinerators. It’s comical to me that this was simply a part of daily all the way up until the late 1950’s in many cities. Did people just accept that their washed laundry would have black soot on it as they dressed themselves? Even more concerning is the health hazard that would become prevalent with dioxins when one would wear this clothing in breathe in these chemicals. I don’t know how you would ever feel clean enough to be around other people and not be self-conscious of the way you smell or look.
(pg. 65) ‘A popular media journal of the day, Printers Ink, went further, suggesting the mission of marketers had to be centered on the fact that “wearing things out does not produce prosperity, but buying things does. . . Any plan that increases consumption is justifiable.”’
This quote from Printers Ink says it all to me. The end justifies the means when it comes to capitalistic growth and our love affair with having new things at the expense of disposing items that are in perfectly good use. As a country we cannot have the economic growth that investors desire if people are frugal with their spending and conscious of the way in which they waste perfectly good things. This really comes down to an addiction and sickness that we have in this country and it’s starting to have mass consequences. What ever happened to people understanding the fact that it is rewarding to be efficient and thrifty when it comes to their budgets and consumption? We as a society do not “mend” the things we have or fix the things that could be still useful by simply taking the time to repair them.
(pg. 112) ‘Researchers at University College in Dublin discovered that a single garment made of synthetic fabric can shed up to 1,900 tiny plastic fibers with each wash, and these tiny bits are flushed down the drain.’
We take for granted what is really going on when we use our washers and dryers. Doing laundry is a chore that many of us passively do disregarding the microscopic things that are occurring, blind to the naked eye. This struck me because when I pull the lint screen from my dryer I always can distinguish the garment based on the lint that is produced. How much of this do we breathe into our bodies and consume through the water that we drink? There are so many aspects in our daily life that accumulate in my opinion to cause many of the cancers that so many people face as a result of our daily habits.
(pg. 137) ‘The age of plastics (and the modern derivation of the word from the ancient Greek plastikos, which means “moldable”) started with a Belgian-born American chemist, Leo Baekeland.’
Baekeland was funded by George Eastman, the founder of Kodak and the father of modern photography (Humes, 2012). Baekeland invented a better type of photo paper and in his research stumbled upon a polymer made with other properties that could be shaped in infinite ways. How many of the life changing things that we use daily are a result of this type of “stumbling” upon a substance that changes the course of history? Another name that comes to mind with chemicals is the DuPont family which has changed the course of history through the research that they have conducted.
(pg. 281) ‘Every year, when Harvard’s students depart campus for the summer, they leave behind roomfuls of perfectly good couces, chairs, tables, lamps and all manner of household items, abandoned without a care.’
This is a great initiative on the part of the university. Students throw out a lot of great things that many people in the community need and want. And the items are quality stuff. As a university we should take pride in the strong relationship we have with the Delaware community and the ways in which we impact it in a positive manner. This is my first year at Ohio Wesleyan University and I am looking forward to seeing how this planned project plays out this May when all the students are heading home and leaving town.
Our homeless initiative has been completed. Thomas and I will be presenting our work next week.
Researchers Are Dumpster Diving Outside the Large Hadron Collider
A scientific ecosystem has sprouted up outside the grounds of the CERN in Switzerland. Tools, devices, detectors, wires, and scrap metals are all being thrown away in the dumpsters outside the facility and many researchers are eagerly “diving in” to claim many of these useful and valuable items. In the article the author discusses many of the researchers doing the dumpster diving are at the PHD level who recognize that disposability can have it its rewards.