The Indiana Jones of Solid Waste (or the University of Arizona Garbage Project)

So I’m sick in bed. Again. Day what, 4? Me and my Sprite bottle and my packet of saltines, just hangin’ out.

I had the foresight to buy a book a couple weeks ago – something I rarely do because they are heavy to move – called Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Dr. Sam Gosling. So far, the chapters introduce spaces and try to figure out something about the people that occupy them. It’s fascinating stuff – and makes me want to clean my house and get rid of the ceramic elephant chia pet.

I just got to a part about the Tucson Garbage Project, or “garbology,” an anthropological study of garbage launched by Dr. William Rathje in 1973. Results from the study were published in Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage. Instead of being an environmental self-righteous tirade (read: unpleasant!), garbology is a way of getting “proof” of a record of human behaviors once left only in the realm of unreliable self-reporting. For instance: alcohol consumption is regularly underreported as compared to the evidence of bottles found in garbage (this must have pre-dated widely available glass recycling programs). Interestingly, though perhaps not surprisingly, these misrepresentations lead to a lot of misconceptions about what actually is in the landfill – i.e., actually it’s mostly paper and yard waste, and a lot of construction waste, and not so much on the styrofoam. They call Rathje the “Indiana Jones of Solid Waste.” I like that. That’s funny. Read more from the 1992 New York Times. God bless the internet. A good portion of landfills is made up of newspapers, because the current landfill management policy of dry entombment doesn’t let them biodegrade.

Anyway. Me and Snoop. Hangin’ out. Bored-like. Drop me a line today and tell me what you think your friends’ houses and offices (and trash?) says about them! Or you! Or me! I’m under quarantine. And bored. And did I mention I was bored?




  1. greenkeen said


  2. greenkeen said

    ok, sorry that wasn’t supposed to post, but I was going to say…AHH! I read that book a couple months ago and loved it.

    Although I don’t really look at other people’s garbage, I think I sort of judge people by how overflowing their trash/recycle bins are :o)

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