Monthly Archives: January 2011

Tracking Trash

Where the heck does our trash go?  I mean, I know my garbage goes to the landfill in Delta or up to the recently expanded Cache Creek, but what about everything else? What about those glass jars and cardboard boxes? What about the occasional plastic container? Is my stuff ending up in the great pacific garbage patch?

Although I have been assured by the guy at the local depot that everything is sold to local buyers, who the heck knows where it goes after that? And with heartbreaking films about garbage pickers and exposés about third world electronics dismantling on the rise, it’s no wonder we are all questioning what’s at the end of the line for the contents of our precious blue boxes.

So the smart folks over at MIT did more than just wonder. They decided to track their recycling. (yes, I’m a couple years behind the 8 ball on this, but it’s still fascinating)

They put tracking sensors on a bunch of waste in Seattle and booted it out the door. The results are pretty interesting.

First off, they generated some super cool tracking maps (that could be classified as art unto themselves). But seriously, I’ve thought a lot about where disposable items come from and the resources used to get them into our hands, but it’s even more crazy to think of how far something as simple as a single coffee cup might travel after its 10 minutes of useful life. And just think of the greater implications of tagging loads of recycling; it would become immediately apparent who is shipping stuff illegally or dumping in the ocean. That’s serious stuff.

I wanted to post some of the maps here, but they have a reproduction clause on their website, so you’ll have to go to to check it out.



Filed under consumerism, recycling

Making a Move – The Dirty Truth

So we moved. And moving tends, well, to generate garbage.

It’s not just the boxes and packing tape, it’s the years worth of “stuff” you’ve been storing in the basement, thinking you’ll get to later. Stuff that you don’t really want at your shiny new place.  . . . I figured I owed it to myself (and you) to be open about the garbage that came from our move, so here’s the good and the bad on the waste front.

The Bad We had to wade through 7 years of “stuff” in the basement, and came out with: a grocery bag of odds and ends destined for he landfill (scraps of cloth, broken things, dried up paint and epoxy from art projects, 2 broken ski poles -someone help me with these), a few bags of recyclables (paper, soft plastics, scrap metal), and a woven rope rug which looks moderate on top and is disintegrating underneath (I’m considering using it to line a raised garden bed). I also (guiltily) used way too much of a roll of plastic packing tape that we had laying around.

The Good I borrowed a bunch of Rubbermaid containers from a friend which dramatically cut down on the number of cardboard boxes we used (if you don’t have a friend who moves so often that they actually bought a set of containers, try a service like frogbox). The cardboard boxes we did use were salvaged from the local beer store (saving both resources and our pocketbook). I used sheets, towels, and reused cardboard to protect dishes and such, eliminating the need for packing paper or bubble wrap. We also avoided the dreaded transfer station by getting rid of lots of stuff on craigslist and the local thrift stores.

I calculated we saved about 7 pounds of carbon by forgoing a huge moving truck and relying on people power, but we probably more than made up for it running “extra items” to a temporary storage locker.

In the end, our single bag of moving waste contributed to our 2010 garbage total being well above our Clean Bin Project year. I didn’t measure it, but I’m thinking it was at least 4 or 5 grocery bags for the year. Kind of sad, but also much better than we ever were before the project started.

Any green moving thoughts?


Filed under Around the house, DIY