Garbage revealed (and reviled)


If you want to confront your own landfill contributions, one way to do it is to run out of garbage bags.

This happened at our house last weekend, so for a couple of days we used small plastic shopping bags sitting on top of our garbage can. I say "bags" because, to my consternation, we went through more than one in this relatively short period of time. We recycle, we compost, and still we produce this ongoing stream of garbage—and it seems to flow faster than I’d thought.

Granted, I’d cleaned out our junk drawer on one of those days, and I could claim that there was extra trash because of that little project. But there’s always something. We get a magazine in the mail, shrouded in a plastic wrapper. We get to the end of our yogurt, stored in a container that isn’t #1 or #2 plastic. We clean out the fridge and have to toss, rather than compost, the food that has cheese or meat in it. Garbage happens.

It reminded me of this project, in which a photographer recorded images of all his garbage every day for a year. I don’t know how he or I would stack up to the national statistic: Americans each produce 4-5 pounds of trash every day. But I know that the simple act of looking at one’s garbage, rather than trying to get it out of sight as we usually do, is very revealing.