Archive for December, 2009

The other green movement

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I was born in New York City—to an American mother and Iranian father—on January 15th, 1979, the same day the Shah fled Iran and what, in a more just world, might have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 50th birthday.

Growing up amidst the nostalgia of Iranian exiles and American progressives, I was taught from the earliest age that my birthday held special significance and that celebrating this significance required something deeper than a cupcake.  Consequently, the days leading up to it each year are accompanied by a tingling sense of urgency, as though something important is about to happen.

This year, watching protests in the streets of Iran via online video and getting updates from family members via phone and email, that sense is stronger than ever. And though I love writing and thinking about trash, lately it has felt strange to be doing so while so much is happening in that far away land so many people I love call home.

I know the struggles are related—environmental justice is linked to civil rights—but the linkages can at times appear tangential.

So, rather than abandon garblogging during this tense time, I thought today I’d occupy my pre-birthday anxiety by listing out the connections between trash and the slow march toward a democratic Iran. Thanks for bearing with me. I am aware that today’s post is a bit navalgazey.

These are connections I have stumbled upon solely because of, reason 1001 it’s lovely to have a trash blog.

Connection #1: Burning trash makes a dramatic political statement.

Getty Images

Connection #2: Iranian sanitation workers were at the forefront of post-election protests (a fact pointed out to me by trash-minded artist Douglas Brodoff).

Connection #3: Iranian-Americans have an affinity for trash. Through the blog I have discovered the trash-related work of artist Kuros Zahedi, filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, and food justice activist Andy Sarjahani. [Note, I think Bahrani is actually Iranian-Canadian, but since Robert Ebert named him the next great American director today, I think it’s fair to lump him.]

Kuros and his piece "Finding Away," photo by Lele Barnett

Connection #4: As a nomadic people prone to political upheaval and averse to waste, Persians make things meant to last forever, never to be thrown away.

Persian carpet

Here’s hoping 2010 brings success to both the green movement to protect the environment and the green movement for political evolution in Iran. Happy New Year, trashies.



Beijing to have trash crisis in next decade

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

China Daily and China Radio International both report today that Beijing will soon be void of space for trash from the 20 million people living in the Capital of the world’s most populous country.  With an annual trash growth rate of 8%, landfills (i.e. Beijing’s main method of taking care of trash) are about to overflow, and disposal plants are already overworked.

As Beijing doesn’t have much space for new landfill, nor much time to establish new landfills, city officials have stated that they are considering incineration, a method highly unpopular among the public, who fear more pollution in an already terribly polluted city. (Illustrative pic can be found here, the real nerds should check out this twitter feed.)

The local government is trying to argue that incineration isn’t necessary a big polluter. Clearly, there are advantages of emissions from incineration facilities over toxic gas generated by landfills, but then again, science is always an argument. (A good account of the debate can be found in this wiki post.) What is of course more disheartening is that the Beijing government, similar to governments everywhere, seem to care less about figuring out how people in Beijing could generate less trash to begin with. 8% growth per year is no joke.

Paper shoes

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

If you are not already a regular reader, Art for Housewives should be part of your daily diet of nifty blog intake. Last night I discovered these lovely recycled paper shoes via A for H (nice to look at, though a bit steep in price given the materials…perhaps I’ll try to weave my own).

Paper shoes by Colin Lin

You may recall the same source led me to these hot fused plastic boots. It’s been an interesting year for upcycled footwear.

Obsolete phonebooth turned library

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Cute. (via the BBC by way of Textually)

Middle East conflict trash

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sidon Garbage Dump

A dump that started with the rubble of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon has morphed into an environmental hazard in the city of Sidon, the BBC reports.  Palestinian refugees make some money scavenging from the 4-story stinking eyesore—sifting among syringes and discarded human organs for reusable materials. Meanwhile, hunks of garbage from the dump make their way into the ocean, clogging and destroying the local fishermen’s nets. According to the article, there are prospective donors that might pay to clean up and deal with the mess, but the local government can’t get their act together to coordinate (Via Greenprophet).

Most amazing RV ever

Monday, December 28, 2009

Stunning photos of a garbage truck converted into an uberorganized mobile home are making the virtual rounds after being posted by a website that offers reliable campervan hire in Australia. I saw them on MAKE magazine.

Trashtastic RV exterior

Trashtastic RV interior

The trouble with getting into garbage is the everburning tug of consumerism. The more time you spend reading and thinking about consumerism, making less and wasting less, the more cool stuff you come across made out of trash or related materials. MAN DO I WANT THIS THING. Especially the kitchen. But really, what would I do with it?

The Heildelberg Project

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A story on the HuffPo yesterday indirectly highlighted Detroit’s Heildelberg Project, a long overdue feature here.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ah Queens, the most diverse neighborhood on the planet. As if you needed another reason to visit, local artist N’Cognita has provided one for you: Trash-formaitons. Now through January in the curatorial space of Sabay Thai Restaurant in Elmhurst you can visit a very special trash art exhibition. Check out her website for more info. And while you’re there, click around for images of related expos past, including N’Cognita’s trashtastic Endless Junkmail Scroll.

N'Cognita's Endless Junkmail Scroll

Homemade Swiffer pads

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sweet. DIY Life has instructions for making your very own replacement pads for Swiffers. Good news if you’re like me who would like to swiff up dirt but can’t stomach the thought of all the trash generated from disposable pads. This time of year I always wish I was a more crafty person.

Reusable Swiffer pad

Staten Island Dump

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Just saw via that there’s a new Staten Island blog on the block. Staten Island Dump‘s tagline is “News. Music. Politics. Life. Gossip. Garbage.” I like the sound of that. Check out the site for such intellectually stimulating content as an interactive poll on the greatest Staten Islander of the decade. I’m torn between Dennis Coles and Diane Savino.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just read the inside label of my snowpants to discover the insulation is made from recycled nylon. Who knew trash could keep you so warm?

Leila attempts snowshoeing

Seasons greetings from the frigid prairies of Minnesota. Hope you’re keeping warm wherever you are!

Trashy snowplows

Sunday, December 20, 2009

As we had about a foot or so of snow falling down on Brooklyn, I’ve been enjoying studying how my new home city deals with snow. First impression, not surprising, is that it melts away, seemingly before it has time to shift from white to exhaust pipe brown. Second impression, a tad more surprising, is that the necessary remowal of snow from streets is being carried out by trash trucks. Three questions pop up in my head:

  1. Why?
  2. What are refuse collectors going to use to collect trash while there’s snow on our streets?
  3. What happens to the system of picking up trash bags from the pavement when the pavements of our streets are covered in three feet of plowed snow?
Snowplow truck pictogram, by Kriss Szkurlatowski

Snowplow truck pictogram, by Kriss Szkurlatowski

Life in a box

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Harnessing the worldwide attention on environmental issues sparked by the UN meeting in Copenhagen, local Danish architects built a city out of shipping containers and set up a sustainability expo inside.

Stacked Shipping Container Pavilion @ COP15

via Inhabitat

Plastic bag batteries

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Scientists have come up with yet another way to upcycle plastic bags, this time into nanotubes that can be used to make batteries. According to Discover magazine, however, it’s a pricey process.

It involves an expensive catalyst in cobalt acetate, which is not easily recovered, to convert the high or low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE) into carbon nanotubes. But if the nanotubes are then used to make lithium-ion or lithium-air batteries, that might overcome this problem, since these batteries are already recycled at the end of their use to recover cobalt.

Click here for more on how to make a nanotube. Or watch this video from Stanford.

The year in trash

Friday, December 18, 2009

It’s been a wasteful yet waste conscious year. Here’s a quick and dirty roundup of what I remember offhand of what we’ve discussed here:

Oh, and the Facebook page grew a lot. If you’re on there, fan us. We post extra photos, links and updates. Plus, you can interact with other trashies (which you can also do here. Comment more, please).

Trashy new year, everyone.



%d bloggers like this: