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 http://senseable.mit.edu/trashtrack/ to check it out.