Garbology

Introduction:

hoarding-buried-alive

  • Hoarders:
    • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists “hoarding” as a distinct mental illness within the category of OCD. Some psychologists want to classify it as disposophobia. The act of hoarding causes greater health and safety issues beyond the dysfunction of daily life in the house and family dynamics. In some extreme cases hoarders have died from entrapment in their own trash.
    • Even worse than entrapment by trash are the cases where hazardous materials come into play–recalling the episode of hoarders with a woman who hoarded cats. She did not clean their litter and refused to even rid of the animals’ bodies when they passed. Her house’s ammonia levels rose so high a kitten’s eye popped out. Her freezers were filled with animal bodies in hopes of one day getting them stuffed. The ammonia levels even caused some of these carcasses to explode.
  • Beyond the existence of this almost exclusively American disorder is our treatment of it. Much of the hype around this disorder exists because of TLC’s show Hoarding: Buried Alive where a team of experts go into hoarders’ homes and try to intervene and fix their situation.
  • Humes notes that “the amount of junk, trash, and waste that hoarders generate is perfectly, horrifyingly normal. It’s just that most of us hoard it in landfills instead of living rooms, so we never see the truly epic quantities of stuff that we all discard. p4”
  • Americans make approximately 7.1lbs of trash per day; 204,000lbs in a lifetime.
    • The amount of daily trash accumulated has doubled since the 1960s
    • screen-shot-2013-11-27-at-4-06-08-pm

      We’ve moved further and further from our food sources

    • It seems that a huge part of the issue is open dating labels, convincing customers that the shelf life of their perishables is much shorter than reality
    • Humes notes that many of the supposedly biodegradable bottles were never tested on actual conditions
    • A political shift has occurred, where presidents and politicians encourage Americans to buy rather than save in order to support the country
    • “Trash is nothing less than the ultimate lens on our lives, our priorities, our failings, our secrets, and our hubris.”

  • How do you feel about the sensationalization of this disease?
  • How much waste do you think you create daily? 
  • Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.07.10 PM

    …plus water used during my ceramics project and bathroom use, the gas used to fuel cars which transported my food.

1 out of 6 big trucks in the US are garbage trucks … 44% of all Green House gas emissions are created by the production and packaging of this eventual waste

  • Municipal solid waste (what we personally throw away) amounts to 77,900,000,000,000 lbs…or 389.5 Million tons thrown away yearly by US
  • Discrepancies between BioCycle and EPA waste reports show that 140 million tons are unaccounted for in these reports (twice as much waste as EPA reports)

  • Where do these discrepancies come from?

Zhang Yin and the export business:

  • scrap and trash exports from the US to China increased 916% between 2000 and 2008
  • 2015 reports show this is now an $11.2 Billion industry

Ch 1: Ain’t no mountain high enough

Landfill design:

  • 8 landfill workers died on the job in 2010
  • Each layer of garbage is covered by a foot of soil
  • pipes are inserted beneath the cell layers running to the top to excrete methane gases–creates energy to fuel landfill operations
  • fishing line is used to combat and disorient seagulls flying around landfill
  • View chart p.25 comparing countries
    • Why doesn’t the US incinerate more of their waste for electricity generation or heat? 

Ch2: Piggeries and burn piles:

  • In the 1880s more than 200 towns with 10,000+ populations had “piggeries” …at which 75 pigs were estimated to consume 2,000lbs of trash per day
  • Colonel Waring devised first sanitation team in NYC 1894, who cleaned streets. He then set an extensive institutionalized and regulated “recycle, reduction, reuse” system to avoid bribery chart on p.43
  • The idea was then rejected by much of the public because it was “too regulated”and the Materials Recovery Facility or the “murph” was created
  • Waste by rail facilities took ashes of garbage out to islands (hence Fitzgerald’s Valley of the Ashes)
  • By the 1950’s health organizations were finally starting to publish warnings about the connections between smog and trash burning (even worse than cars)
    • We still breathe many of these toxins…
    • “By 2010 many of these dioxin emissions were reduced by a factor of 13 because of industrial pollution controls. But of the dioxin emissions that remained, home trash burning was responsible for nearly 2/3rds of them.”

  • Personal trash incinerators “Smokey Joes” were finally banned in 1957…at once f7395bb94623f73246a9583f8b95bf50marketed with smiley faces and metal hats
  • People didn’t want to pay for municipal services
  • We always hear about how unregulated automobile fumes and a culture of smoking contributed to our grandparents’ and parents’ health effects. Why don’t we talk about trash?
  • Where is the line between American individualism and health/safety? Why does our culture take these risks?

 

 

 

Ch3 Landfill Rodeos:

  • What led us to become a culture of throw away and upgrade?
  • Post WWII America equated nationalistic pride with consumption
  • The dawn of American TV in the 1950s and 60s provided the perfect venue for manufacturers and marketers to reorient American goals from a culture of saving to consuming. The American dream is now to be the “super customer” to show off prosperity…in order to bolster the economy we must buy anything and everything to support the uprise of the economy.
  • “Our willingness to part with something before it’s worn out is a phenomenon noticeable in no other society…It is soundly based on our economy of abundance. It must be further nurtured even though it runs contrary to one of the oldest inbred laws of humanity, the law of thrift.” Lippincott

  • We live in a culture which accepts vast amounts of debt…we only save 3.4% of our annual income, as opposed to other European countries which save upwards of 10%
  • This pairs with the acceptance of plastic, increasing from .4% plastic municipal waste in 1960 to 11% by 2000
    • Since 2000 Americans consume 100 Billion bags a year ($4 Billion)
    • Plastic petroleum products we are addicted to, invented:
      • styrofoam : 1944
      • plastic-lined paper cup (to go coffee cups) : 1950
      • TV dinners : 1953
      • plastic milk jug material : 1957
      • disposable bic pen : 1958
      • disposable razor : 1960
    • The consumer economy supports this production by supporting the petro industry…this way companies like coke didn’t have to pay for their bottles to be returned, cleaned, and repurposed

Review page 95 & 96 Q&A…

  • Growing up in the 90s we all have a sense of difference between the time before and after the personal technology take-over, a sort of nostalgia. However, with plastics and disposable everything that does not exist for people this class. How do you perceive this comparison? Does reading these statistics change your attitude about plastic consumption compared to the way factory farming statistics  in previous books changed your attitude towards meat?
  • How do we change our apathy towards this default trash in life? 

 

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