Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Trash, Garbage, Waste, Stuff

An article featuring The Story of Stuff ( was recently atop The New York Times 'most emailed' list.  The 20 minute story is worth a watch.  It details the story of where our stuff comes from, who makes it, how quickly it turns into trash, and where it goes when we're done with it.  It was most interesting to me to learn that it's not just my ipod that's meant to last a finite amount of time.  I'd sort of always figured that electronics had a shelf life before they break.  It turns out that back in the '50s manufacturers were open about creating products that lasted long enough that the consumer would buy another next time, but broke soon enough that the profits of another purchase could be reaped.  The film also mentions that only a very tiny fraction of products (2%) are still in use 6 months after they're purchased!  Crazy.  

It's pretty easy not to think about trash in the US.  It is picked up from our curbs each week and it vanishes.  I have no idea where the trash goes once it leaves my curbside can.  Recently, I spent a few months living in Uganda.  In Uganda, there is no trash collection.  So people's trash often winds up in the waterways, discarded in the slums, and on the streets.  

This all made me think about a few articles I read in the not so distant past.  The first, is about Senegal (, a West African country that is inundated with trash, as I imagine many third world countries are.  The second, is about Naples, Italy (  The situation in Naples came to a hilt in 2007 and I'm not sure of what became of things then, but it's interesting to think that even a developed city could encounter a situation in which it doesn't know what to do with all its trash.  

In fact, I'm surprised we're able to find a spot for all our trash now.  


Anonymous said...

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