Archive for November, 2008

Second Lives

Sunday, November 30, 2008

metaljacket The Museum of Arts and Design has a show up through February 15th called Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary.  The exhibit, which features work from 50 artists, includes recycling in its highest form: artistic and funcional.  Well, some of it anyway, from what I can tell based on this Brooklyn Based weekly listserv (forwarded to me by my friend, Jennie, whom I will be hitting up to accompany me to the show to see for ourselves.  We had a great time checking out quilts and little creatures made from old bottle caps at the American Folk Art Museum last week.  New Yorkers are advised to check it out.  Disregard what I said about it costing $15 in the original post, the show is in fact free).

Despite the tip source, MAD is located in Manhattan.  I ripped this photo from their Web site.  It depicts a piece called Metal Jacket crafted by Korean-born artist Do Ho Suh entirely out of dog tags.  Even in this tiny picture, the jacket looks very powerful.  Also featured on the MAD site are a flock of butterflies molded out of old records (I’m a sucker for things made out of vinyl, it always looks so cool) and a flowing white gown made out of latex gloves.  More to come once I’ve had a chance to see all this upcycling for myself.

Trash hiatus and happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hello from Essaouira, Morocco.  Sorry for the light, or rather absence of posting this week.   My sister and I decided rather last minute to spend the holiday weekend…plus a few extra days…with our Iranian father by meeting up half way between Tehran and Brooklyn.  I hope you are all having wonderful meals today with loved ones whether or not you celebrate American Thanksgiving.

Here are some other links to check out until I return home to more familiar keyboards and speedier Internet service on Sunday.

Swedish trash schizophrenia

Friday, November 21, 2008


Victor, our man in Stockholm, just sent me this troubling story from Swedish National Public Radio.  Apparently the trash incineration biz in Sweden is outpacing waste production by Swedes.  They’ve built so many new facilities that trash must now be imported from other European countries just to meet the demand to burn it up: 600,000 tons in the last year alone.

As you may recall from this book recommendation earlier this month, Sweden also exports electronic waste to Ghana—one kind of trash in, another out.  Aside from burning trash not being the best for the environment, all that waste hauling must be taking up shitloads of energy.  With two tips in one month, I’m upgrading Victor to Eurotipster Extraordinaire and look forward to more strange garbage news otherwise hidden from the non-Swedish-speaking world.

Photo of Japanese incinerator ripped from the Global Environment Centre Foundation.

City girls don’t like to get greasy

Thursday, November 20, 2008

recycleabike Recycle a Bicycle teaches young people that bikes are awesome and shows them how to fix them when they break.  One way the program raises money is via sales of jewelry made of old bike chains.  Funy enough, these tough chick accessories grew from girly origins.


According to today’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Several years ago, Recycle-A-Bicycle received a small grant for science and technology. [Former bike mechanic and founder Karen] Overton used the grant to start an after-school program for middle school-aged girls to come into the shop and build bikes. “But the girls came in and rebelled,” she said. “They didn’t want to get greasy.”

Around the same time, a man, whom Overton nicknamed “John the jewelry man,” used to come into Recycle-A-Bicycle and ask to look through the small parts bin, taking various pieces that he used to make jewelry. Seeing a way to get the girls learning (and not greasy), Overton asked him to teach her how to make jewelry out of bicycle parts.

Who are these prissy girls?  I’m kind of disappointed to read that they don’t like to get dirty.

Hubcap zoo

Thursday, November 20, 2008

dragon I discovered this dragon and other wonderful hubcap animals via Esther over at Je me recycle.  Apparently, this British guy collects hubcaps on the road and crafts them into creatures that he then sells for megapounds.  Not bad.

Trash talk on January 8th in Princeton

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


4:00 p.m.

Leila Darabi

The world of “garbloggers” is diverse and ever-growing, ranging from artists sharing work made out of recycled materials to armchair environmentalists tracking their own waste to make a political statement.

Leila Darabi, creator of the blog everydaytrash, will give an overview of the many voices talking and tracking trash online and the common themes connecting them.

Trained as a journalist, Darabi works in international development, a career which allows her to blog about trash from the far reaches of the planet.

Save the date!  This is my contribution to the Princeton Environmental Film Festival hosted  by the Princeton Public Library.  For a complete schedule of events, click here.  Note that my little talk precedes the screening of a trash film which is then followed by legendary trash author, Elizabeth Royte of Garbage Land and Bottlemania fame.

The garbage of gadetry

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

portable-cell-phone-booth A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project yields some amusing and educational findings:  half of gadget users need help to get their smart phones, cell phones and computers to work; many of these devices break; and users experience a range of emotions when they can’t get their stuff to work.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, cell phones are more likely to break in the hands of younger users.  And, most relevant to our interests here, 15% of users never get their device fixed—that’s a lot of cell phones, smart phones and computers headed straight for the trash.

The AP has a nice summary of key findings, including a breakdown of the various emotions people feel when trying to fix a  broken device ranging from confident to confused.

Image via Laughing Squid

Operation Ivy

Friday, November 14, 2008

  Really people, why am I always the last to know?  I can’t believe that in two years of garblogging I’m only now discovering that in 2006 a group of Wesleyan students travelled around to five Ivy League campuses and made a documentary about diving in those elite dumpsters.  Having grown up on a sucession of college campuses, I’m thrilled to see ANY effort to reduce the waste.  I know homelessness and hunger are complex problems, but when walking around a college campus, especially the well endowed sort, it is hard to fathom how anyone could be needy in this sickly over-satiated country.  Dumpster diving in college towns is so easy it’s more of a public service than a sport.

Of course half of the Princeton students (sample size unknown) polled on this collegate blog disagree that it’s a good idea.  Shocking.

America Recycles Day

Friday, November 14, 2008

itallcomesback Don’t forget to celebrate America Recycles Day tomorrow!  The poll is in, we think this year’s slogan “It all comes back to you” is both a promise and a threat.  We also think polls are fun and look forward to better ones down the road.  US residents, click here for a listing of local events.

Reblog: Styrofoam robot via Dinasoars and Robots

Thursday, November 13, 2008

robot Here’s the original post.  This has got to be the best use ever for the space-shaped and, I thought but was clearly wrong, utterly nonreusable styrofoam pieces that come with just about any appliance one buys.  This guy kind of reminds me of being a nature camp cousellor summers in Central PA.   Each year the day camp chose a super hero like the Recycling Ranger and made one of the college student interns dress up and teach the kids stuff.  I think it was the Garbage Guru who led us each week in the chant: “I say styrofoam, you say leave it alone.”


“Leave it alone!”


“Leave it alone!”

Ah, good times.  I haven’t played recycle tag for YEARS.  Remind me some other time to tell you about the camp’s director of Native American eduaction, the self-dubbed Injun Ed.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

swedish Skräp is Swedish for trash.  It is also the title of what I am told (by my friend Victor who is Swedish and half way through it) is a rad book in which this guy Mattias Hagberg tracks his own waste then follows it all the way to Ghana, which is where Sweden exports some of its solid waste.  Swedish speakers, here’s the link to the publisher.  The rest of us will sadly have to wait for Victor to finish reading and/or the commercial release of an English translation.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

rubble Photographer Manuel Branco takes pictures of dumpsters, trash and rubble.  Like gartog colleagues Chris Jordan and Last Night’s Garbage, Branco’s work magnifies and abstracts these commonly ignored subjects.  The result is a glossy and unique collection of images that dwell on color and force the viewer to examine discarded materials in a new light.  Some of these photos can be found in the book DUMPSTERS, TRASH and RUBBLE – Elements of Abstraction which is for sale and will soon be updated in an expanded version.  Check out more of Branco’s work on Flickr, JPG Magazine or imagekind.

Trashtastic Tuesday with Professor Sigurd Grava

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

garbage An urban planning friend recently sent me this link to The Tipping Point issue of URBAN magazine, a periodical put out by Columbia University.  In it, the editors poll faculty on the question: “If you could tip something, what would you tip?”  The experts were left to interpret “tip” as they wished.  Professor Sigurd Grava took it to mean tipping in the trashy sense and suggested we tip tipping policies.  Here’s an excerpt from his response:

“My proposal is to dramatically increase all tipping fees, thereby using them as the instrument to reform the entire production and distribution chain of our effluent society. This would apply particularly to consumer products. For example, disposable, single-use items that make our lives more convenient (from paper towels to flow pens) would have to be made of materials that disappear easily. Complex and large things, such as automobiles, would have to be so designed that they can be readily taken apart at the end and various materials segregated. Wrappers and packaging materials, the scourge of our civilization, would be replaced by thin but tough films that burn harmlessly or disintegrate elegantly.”

After reading this intriguing blurb, I contacted Professor Grava with a couple of follow up questions, which he was kind enough answers.  Happy Tuesday!

everydaytrash: How would heavy tipping fees move up the production chain to impact manufacturers and those who create the waste in the first place?

Grava: I believe recycling can only work effectively if it has a financial base (not just rules and regulations) by adding recovery to the production/distribution/marketing/usage chain — MONEY as the propellant. This can be tipping fees, special charges, built in value in the product, or any other mechanism. Large scale experimentation should allow us to determine which works best.

everydaytrash: In your international work, have you come across solid waste and recycling systems that could serve as role models for American cities?

Yes — the most effective process is SCAVENGING, at various levels of formal organization. It ranges from casual pick-up of material on the street (almost anywhere) to clans with monopoly rights to collect stuff, separate and recover on sites where these families live, and maintaining piggeries (in Egypt). There are obviously serious issues in sanitation, livability, and discrimination, but the process works.

Dump truck downloaded from the Waste News clip art archive.

Abundance: Dawson City Trash Project

Monday, November 10, 2008

dawson3 This summer, artist Max Liboiron built a large-scale diarama of and about trash in the Yukon Territory of Canada.  Using trash from the local landfill, she created an incredible artistic and educational space mapping dumping grounds past and present in Dawson City.  The result is a deceptively simple landscape that speaks to our complicated relationship with what we throw away, and where we throw it.  Here are a few images ripped from the project site.


For more on the creative process, check out the Dawson City Trash Project blog.


And for more on the artist, check out her other projects.

Wonkity wonk wonk

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tipster emeritus Kimberly K. just sent me this link to a working paper on “take-back” policies from Harvard Business School.  The document lays out a framework for evaluating the impact of such anti-trash policies, a useful tool for down the road as governments pass more and more legislation aimed at holding companies responsible for the end lives of the products they send out into the universe.  The framework organizes criteria for effective policies into three categories: mitigating environmental and public health risks, promoting cost efficiency and protecting occupational health and safety.  Frustratingly, there aren’t yet enough good policies out there to provide the data to really analyze what works.  But those interested in the political side of trash might be interested in the full article, which covers examples from the states, Europe and that mecca of good garbage policy, Japan.

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