Trashtastic Tuesday with Paul Gargagliano


trashwood2.jpg May-June is a horrifying season of waste on and near college campuses. Around this time of year, the over-satiated and less than imaginative undergraduates of our nation drag pounds upon pounds of perfectly good stuff to the curb simply because it won’t fit into their station wagons and storage lockers, or because it’s less of a hassle to just buy a new one next year.

Having grown up on a series of college campuses, this phenomneon particularly bums me out. Seeing piles of couches and text books, plastic storage bins and metal clothes hangers lining the streets of my town at the end of Spring Semester was a yearly reminder of the temporary and disposable view my quadranual roation of neighbors had for our community. This year, however, I am heartened. My friend Lydia lives in Philadelphia where she knows a guy named Paul Gargagliano. Paul Gargagliano, Lydia tells me, goes around on his bike salvaging the stuff tossed aside by the young and the wasteful. Hearing this, I had to know more. And so another Trashtastic Tuesday begins…

everydaytrash: How do you find the curbside items you reuse? Do you happen upon them, go out hunting, round up friends to help?

Paul Gargagliano: Here in West Philadelphia, come late May you have to try hard not to find great trash on the side of the road. At this special time, known as Penn Christmas to some, students at the University of Pennsylvania move away, and the school renovates building after building. Over the past three years UPenn students and the school itself have worked together to clothe and feed me, they have provided me with the materials to create shelter, given me artistic inspiration, made me wonder in awe at wealth accumulation and brought me many moments of unexpected joy. All up and down the streets of University City students create unweildy piles of bagged and unbagged goods. The university fills dumpsters with old furniture and leftover building materials. Most of the trash picking I do is with my friend Ben on Sunday and Monday nights, but I also go out alone. We almost exclusively travel by bicycyle. Ben is a little more selective than I am, which means that he tends to make it back to the house first because I’m so loaded down that I can barely pedal. I take a lot of things that I might never use because I can’t bear imagining the maw of a garbage truck crushing them up. Case in point, I recently brought home a baby monitor hoping I guess that somebody knew somebody who needed one. When we find wood we come home and get the car. Sometimes I’ll hide a larger item in an alley to come back for it with a vehicle.

everydaytrash: What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever found and salvaged?

Gargagliano: Rather here is a list of my favorite finds off the top of my head: a 1.5 liter orange Le Creuset sauce pan, a big red internal frame backpack that a friend is carrying around India right now, a delicious sheep’s milk cheese that I could never afford called Ewephoria, a massive maple lab table, a 36 cubby unit made out of oak ply that I put all my clothing in, a hefty Webster’s dictionary, over 1000 dollars worth of textbooks that a friend and I dutifully resold, 1 half bottle of Pimm’s liquor something I never would have tried otherwise.

everydaytrash: What sorts of things have you made out of the discarded items you salvage?

Gargagliano: Currently I am typing at an L shaped desk that Ben and I made out of laminated oak and and old maple lab table. Ben and I both made our beds, desks, and bedside tables out of salvaged wood.

everydaytrash: Do you think people become more or less wasteful as they become more educated?…as they age?

Gargagliano: I think that a person’s wastefulness is linked more directly to her relationship to consumer culture and the commodity fetish. If you believe that shopping is a valid passtime, then you will be forced to make room for the new things that you are constantly purchasing and bringing into your home. If you have no connection at all to the labor required to make a given object then you tend to invest much less in its maintenance and you toss it into the trash more readily. There are ways in which certain types of education about labor might bring out a consciousness of the commodity fetish and consumer culture, but an education at UPenn undergrad or at the school of dentistry, these things, have proven to create a rather wasteful class of people. Older people are often more jaded in general. They see through commercials that try to get them to spend their money here and there. And thus, they buy fewer things and throw away fewer things.


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8 Responses to “Trashtastic Tuesday with Paul Gargagliano”

  1. Mahei Says:

    One persons trash is another’s treasure as they say 😉

  2. everydaytrash Says:

    One of several mantras here.

  3. Mahei Says:

    Indeed it is…and a great blog u have!!

    Its amazing how a lot of us dont think about what goes into our trash!! So many rough ‘gems’ which could be reused over and over again. I guess a bit of imagination would help.

  4. everydaytrash Says:

    Thanks for reading, I hope you’ll come again.

  5. Mark Says:

    Its a shame. Thats why I tried to avoid buying at much stuff as possible in college.

  6. Natural Treatments Says:

    plastic and storage bins are both great, if i want a more durable storage bins then i would opt for steel storage bins ,”;

  7. Says:

    If trash business wouldn’t be so hugely profitable it would be easier for entreprenuers to enter recycling business.

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