Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage

Author: William Rathje & Cullen Murphy
Published: 1992

The book details the work of the Garbage Project at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Very interesting information about the history (U.S. and ancient) of trash, landfills, and the value for archeologists as well as sociologists.

Very glad I read this first (I have a growing list of research on the subject) as it dispels many myths about U.S. consumption, landfills, and their contents which I've run into already in the next book I'm reading. Some things such as:

  • Evidence of trash has accompanied all human activity going back to the dawn of mankind.
  • Contemporary Americans (20th century on) are not that much more wasteful historically than prior generations (and even slightly less wasteful than some under-developed countries).
  • Disposable diapers, the bogeything of trash, make up less than 2% of the contents of landfills.
  • The biggest item in landfills by weight and volume is paper, clocking in at over 40%, which has increased steadily since the advent of computers.


Camille Alexa said...

That sounds interesting.

Todd Wheeler said...

It's worth reading. Certainly made the point that landfills in the U.S. are a problem, just not a crisis (at least not 15 years ago).

The authors advocate reduce/reuse/recycle. It does view the problem scientifically and points out the flaws in various other claims and estimates of waste and material consumption in the U.S.

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