Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Filthy History: When New Yorkers Lived Knee-Deep in Trash


It’s tempting to think of sacred tombs and ancient monuments as our best window into other cultures. But archaeologists have long known that if you really want to understand a civilization, to know its people’s passions, weaknesses, and daily rituals, look no further than their garbage.

Robin Nagle has spent much of her life fascinated by trash, and its oft-unseen impacts on our society, our environment, and our health. Nagle’s recent book, “Picking Up,” chronicles a decade working with the New York City Department of Sanitation, years spent in their offices, transfer stations, locker rooms, and of course, their garbage trucks. Interspersed with Nagle’s personal experiences are enlightening tidbits from the city’s long and difficult history of trash collection. As Nagle points out, we live in cities literally built on trash, yet the management of household waste remains one of the most invisible aspects of modern existence.

In the U.S., the most wasteful country per capita, each citizen throws away an average of 7.1 pounds per day, according to garbage guru Edward Humes. So what place could be better to study the impact of this onslaught than New York City, which generates nearly 22 million pounds of household waste every day?

For the rest of the story: http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/when-new-yorkers-lived-knee-deep-in-trash/

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