Archive for August, 2009


Monday, August 10, 2009

Your burning questions about sanitation and human waste can be put to rest this week over at City Room by journalist Rose George, author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters.

Paperback/US edition

Paperback/US edition

Note the alternate subtitle in the alternating photos on her website. I wonder if the switch was hardcover/paperback change or a UK/US switch and if the latter, what that says about the way Britons versus Americans view poo.

Hardcover/UK edition

Hardcover/UK edition

What began as “adventures” became “unmentionable.”

Plastic free living

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Katherine Sharpe‘s “A Week Without Plastic” series comes to an end. Check out her reflections on the experience over at ReadyMade.

What will happen to 750,000 clunker$?

Friday, August 7, 2009

About a week ago, it looked like Cash for Clunkers (or as its actually called, the Car Allowance Rebate System; CARS), i.e. the US government program through which car-owners rich enough to buy a new car if promising not to sell the old one but rather have it demolished, was up for a lot more funding. This has now come to pass.

According to, a quarter of a million new cars have been sold through this program to date. The program has been running since early July, so I’d say that a lot. Another half a million “environmentally friendly” cars are expected to hit the roads by Labor* Day. I’m still wondering who the fat cats in the sudden demoli$hing of 750,000 old cars are, and what they are doing to take care of the lead, sulphuric acid and mercury.

[*Linguistic bonus treat of the week: I really do want to spell this “Labour”, but since its actually the name of a holiday, I’ll make an exception.]

On Henry Hudson and plastic bags

Friday, August 7, 2009

For the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson‘s accidental discovery of the greatest city on Earth, Kathy Ryan, director of photography for The New York Times Magazine has curated a show up now at the Museum of New York City of contemporary Dutch artists asked to update their classical tradition. Behold: The. Very. Best. One.

Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam and Robert Mann Gallery via

Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam and Robert Mann Gallery via

It’s called “Bag” and is one of several  Hendrik Kerstens‘ portraits of his daughter on exhibit.

I humbly suggest that this become a traveling show, because I can think of no more logical future for this collection of works than a sojourn at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schipol.

Thanks for the tip, Alexandra!

Fresh stuff at Freshkills

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Yorkers, mark your calendars for two upcoming tours of Freshkills Park! The first requires a whopping $2 entry fee; the second one is free. Both require RSVPs.

Fresh Kills Park: Draft Master Plan,

Fresh Kills Park: Draft Master Plan,

The Staten Island Compost Project presents a Freshkills Park Compost Workshop

Saturday, August 29, 2009

12:00pm -2:00 pm @ the Freshkills Park site (a Parks bus will pick up at the St. George Ferry Terminal)

Nearly half of what we throw away could be composted and returned to the earth. Composting at home reduces the cost of yard trimming collection and processing, keeps kitchen waste out of the landfill, and turns organic material into a valuable amendment for gardens and houseplants. Best of all, it’s easy.
Join us as Mark Bigelow, Director of the Staten Island Compost Project, teaches us about the different ways to compost, the science behind the process, ways to ensure healthy compost and how to troubleshoot common issues. The workshop will be held on top of North Mound at the Freshkills Park site, with expansive views of the former landfill and the Department of Sanitation’s ongoing operations at the municipal compost facility. A tour of the site will accompany the workshop.

Space is limited, and registration is $2 per person to support the cost of demonstration materials and compost tip sheets. To register, please email with the subject heading “Composting Event” or call (212) 788-8277.

Staten Island OutLOUD presents The Poetry of Robert Frost

Saturday, September 12, 2009

12:30pm-2:30pm @ the Freshkills Park site (a Parks bus will pick up at the Eltingville Transit Center)

One of America’s most important poets, Robert Frost’s meditations on nature are considered to be some of the finest reflections on the complex relationship between humans and the natural world.

Please join us as Staten Island OutLOUD, a community dialogue and performance project, presents the Poetry of Robert Frost, a reading and conversation on the author. The readings will be held on top of North Mound at the Freshkills Park site, with expansive views of the former landfill and the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge. A tour of the site will accompany the readings.

Space is limited. To register, please email with the subject heading “SI OutLOUD” or call (212) 788-8277.

Capturing the plastic vortex

Friday, August 7, 2009

A few days ago, a “team of innovators, scientists, environmentalists, ocean lovers, sailors, and sports enthusiasts” set sail for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to take a closer look at the gyre in the hopes of evenutally figuring out a way to clean that shit up. The expedition is called Project Kasisei. You may remember an earlier mention of this ambitious plan featuring the co-founder, entrepeneur Doug Woodring (not to be confused with David de Rothschild‘s Plastiki).

Photo by Robert Sanford via Flickr

Photo by Robert Sanford via Flickr

As you’ll recall, one of the cool things about this project is that they will be looking at the beast from all angles, especially below. The fleet includes two vessels, the Kaisei and the New Horizon. And you can track their progress day by day, as each ship has its own blog. Check them here and here. More to come as the crew reaches their destination.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just stumbled across this link via unconsumption:

Hello. We are Kept. We’re not selling anything. Just the opposite. We want you to keep the stuff you’ve already got. To use it. To wear it. To celebrate it!

Post your own stories of things you kept instead of throwing away, or tweet them with the hashtag #kept. Supercool.

Trash pickers in the news

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The New York Times ran a don’t forget about the trash pickers op-ed yesterday written by Bharati Chaturvedi, founder and director of the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group in New Delhi.

AMONG those suffering from the global recession are millions of workers who are not even included in the official statistics: urban recyclers — the trash pickers, sorters, traders and reprocessors who extricate paper, cardboard and plastics from garbage heaps and prepare them for reuse. Their work is both unrecorded and largely unrecognized, even though in some parts of the world they handle as much as 20 percent of all waste…

Click here for the full article.

A week without plastic

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Katherine Sharpe goes cold turkey over at ReadyMade. Check out Part I of the series. We’re looking forward to the daily updates, especially if they all include neat links like today’s nod to photographer Chris Jordan’s work.

Thanks for the tip, Sarah! I love that the University of Trash workshop last weekend is already yielding new tipsters.

Trashtastic Tuesday with Mai Iskander

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Trashtastic Tuesdays return to today after a bit of a hiatus. Filmmaker Mai Iskander was kind enough to answer our questions about her powerful film, Garbage Dreams. Those of you in LA, take note,  the film is playing at the Arclight from August 14-20th with Iskander in attendance the first three nights.

Mai Iskander

Mai Iskander photo via

everydaytrash: How long did this project take you and how did you identify your main subjects?

Iskander: Garbage Dreams is a labor of love that took four years to make. By 2005, I had been working in the film business as a cinematographer for five years and decided to take the winter off and spend it in Cairo. I returned to the garbage village and started volunteering at the local neighborhood school, The Recycling School. The teachers and students really impressed me. Despite their difficult and impoverished life, they were extremely proud in their way of life and their history – and they should be.

The Zaballeen have created the world’s most effective resource recovery system, recycling 80 percent of everything they collect. They are actually saving our Earth. From out of the trash, they lifted themselves out of poverty and have a solution to the world’s most pressing crisis.

Unfortunately, in 2003, never having recognized these strikingly high recycling rates and following globalization trends, Cairo decided to hire three foreign waste companies to clean up its overpopulated mega-city of 18 million people. This Zaballeen community of 60,000 was slowly losing its livelihood.

Of course, as a filmmaker, I quickly saw potential for a story, but it was the teenagers who really drew me in. In addition to the fact that their way of life and community was in jeopardy, these kids were also facing typical teenage concerns: fashion, pop music and their workout routine, and their aspirations to be the coolest and most popular.
More after the jump

More on trashy video games

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I forgot to mention this morning, that Trash Wars joins a motley crew of trash-themed video games. There’s the Japaense game Trash Panic now available from Play Station, there was that kid who made a Donkey Kong-like garbage collector game for a school project, and then there was the TrashCade, a more literal take on the subject. Know of any others? Send them our way!

UPDATE: I should have Googled before hitting publish. Trash, the game, has a post-appocalyptic theme wherein trash is used as building material. And check out this amazing overview of how trash cans are used in video games from the user-edited site Giant Bomb.

In video games, Trash cans do not serve their tradition purpose. Relatively few games employ a mechanic for the disposal of trash. Rather, whenever trash cans are featured in video games, it is mostly for the purposes of weaponry or cover.

Trash Wars, the game

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Earlier this summer, sanitation workers in Toronto went on strike leaving the trash to pile up in the city and make the point that they are indeed, very needed members of the community. The strike drew mixed sympathies, according to some reports. In the midst of it all, video game designer Hafiz Kassam created a game called trash wars, put it on the internet and included a little online poll asking if you supported the strike before launching the action.

Trash Wars

Trash Wars

In the game, a little man stands atop a pile of trash bags and tries to pick off approaching rats with a handgun. I only attempted a few levels, but eventually it allows you to upgrade your weapon. I like the idea of whipping up a video game to draw attention to a social issue, but I think a game where one scrambled to keep the trash from piling up might have been more to the point.

Via The Escapist

European Union to take responsibility for their big ship trash?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Remember we posted earlier this year about big ship tra$h? Apparently, the European Union (currently under the ever so Swedish-holier-than-thou presidency) are concerned with the fact that in the dockyards in South Asia hundreds of workers die each year, while dismantling EU ships.

It turns out that internal EU negotiations on how to prevent this have been going on for a year or so (hurrah!), and are to reach climax in September/October. Lets hope that lead negotiator Ulf Björnholm Ottosson has more to say by then than this powerful statement:

The EU has a special duty to try and improve the situation.

Duty indeed. However, we must confess that the situation is indeed complicated, and that EU countries are finding it difficult to agree on legislation (or rather, more legislation, the issues are already covered in conventions) they want to see from the European Commission. Everyone are not so holy. I suspect it to be EU Member States with a lot of tonnage at their harbours. You do the math.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Just stumbled across this badass anti-bottled water campaign featured on Cool Hunting. If the water companies can twist the truth, environmentalist might just twist it back. Only with more style. Click through for the full CH post. This is my favorite.

Tappening campaign

Tappening campaign

Go see Garbage Dreams

Monday, August 3, 2009

CORRECTION: In the original post, I incorrectly assumed the Laila in the film was Laila Iskandar Kamel, the award-winning advocate, because I had heard about this famous Laila who worked with the Zabaleen. As it turns out, there are two Laila’s dedicated to this valient cause. This Leila apologizes for the error.

It’s been a trash-packed weekend, kids. After an amazing afternoon at the University of Trash on Saturday, I headed down to the IFC Center today for a noon screening of Garbage Dreams, Egyptian filmmaker Mai Iskander‘s documentary about three young men growing up Zabaleen in Cairo.  New Yorkers, take note, it’s playing through Thursday as part of DocuWeeks 2009. And if you’re in LA, there’s a docuequivalent.  Here’s the trailer for those who missed it the first time we posted it.

The story follows teenagers Adham, Nabil and Osama as well as  Laila, a social worker who runs The Recycling School, a place where young community members learn about everything from safe recycling practices to how to negotiate a fair contract with local residents to collect their trash. I won’t give away the whole plot, but a lot of the conflict centers around the fact that after 100 years of depending on the Zabaleen, the city of Cairo signs contracts with foreign waste hauling companies who threaten the trash pickers’ way of life. It’s an emotionally pulling conflict. My natural instinct is to root for the Zabaleen to win out and remain the city’s trash collection system, but it’s hard to feel good about all that comes along with that profession…life in a garbage slum, generation after generation working harder for less money, dangerous contact with sharp and toxic materials…

You never hear from the Egyptian government in this film. Or from the foreign waste companies. And I was never quite sure who was buying the plastic and metal recycled by the Zabaleen. The film left me curious about many things—not the least of which is the source of the often repeated stat that Cairo recycles 80% of its waste thanks to the Zabaleen. After watching the film, I believe it, but would like to know how it was calculated. Overall, though, the film accomplishes its main objective: to put a human face on a group of invisible people. Check it out and let me know what you think.

P.S. My favorite part is when two of the boys visit Wales to observe recycling in a developed country as part of some government program or something and one says to the other: “Dude, did you see that? That car just slowed down to let someone cross the street!” Spoken like a true Caireen.

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