Archive for May, 2012

Will eliminating trash trains eliminate Subway trash?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New Yorkers, have you noticed fewer trash cans on your local platform? The MTA thinks getting rid of trash cans will reduce the need for subterranean garbage collection, thus speeding up late night operation.


Trash train, photo via

Yes, it’s devastating to be waiting late night, to hear that rumble of promise, only to discover it’s the freaking trash train. Delays suck. But really, will we throw less away just because we have no where to throw it? Sure, there’s evidence that if we don’t have trays to load up, we take less food in cafeterias. It seems like a leap, though, to apply the same logic to solid waste. Thoughts?

Women of Minyore

Monday, May 21, 2012

Over the weekend, AfriGadget shared this wonderful short documentary by the Kenya-based Dutch journalist Ruud Elmendorp on trashpicking craftswomen near Nakuru.

The women, including Lucy Wambui, featured in a video and report on Elmendorp’s site, collect plastic bags from the dump and weave them into marketable goods. In an area of the world ravaged by poverty, HIV, domestic abuse and drug addiction, these women are bettering their lives and educating the next generation on the income they earn selling recycled plastic. Lucy, for example, pays her grandson’s school fees with part of her income.

I find this piece particularly compelling because I have been to Nakuru, spent the night in the national park for which the area is famed and even spent a night in town without ever crossing paths with a community of trashpickers. Elmendorp’s shot of the dump site with flamingo lake in the background beautifully illustrates the contrast between the two worlds. It reminds me of this photo, which I shared here in 2010, taken from the shore of the same lake.

Lake Nakuru

How different the planet appears from the other side of the looking glass.

Technical Difficulties

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sorry if you’ve had trouble accessing the site this past week. We’ve cleared up the issue and are back in business.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Early in Alexis M. Smith‘s novel Glaciers, the protagonist Isabelle finds a postcard in a junk store. It reads:

Dear L —

Fell asleep in a park. Started to rain. Woke up with

my hat full of leaves. You are all I see when I open

or close a book.



I hope one day to send or receive such a perfect note. Finding value in old things, ruminating on the lives led by their former owners and never throwing them away forms one of the novel’s central themes. Smith fills the short chapters with hauntingly beautiful strings of words describing childhood memories in Alaska and adolescence in the Pacific Northwest, contrasted with a day in Isabelle’s present-day life as she navigates those delicious moments when a crush becomes a Real Possibility.

I discovered Glaciers at the one-year anniversary party of one my favorite literary organizations, Late Night Library, where the author read from the book. The Late Night Library podcast, produced by my friend Erin Hoover and her collaborator Paul Martone, features first books by emerging authors. I recommend subscribing if you love poetry, fiction, intelligent conversation and free content.

Glide Skateboards

Thursday, May 10, 2012

HONY featured this guy today, which led me to the Facebook page and website of Glide Skateboards, which explain that they make “hand crafted boards made from reclaimed sustainable materials inspired by the graceful lines of surfing.”  Check out the links for galleries of gym floors upcycled into elegant rides.

Photo by

Tangentially related personal story:

These well-crafted boards are a far cry from my first and only skateboard, purchased from a dingy toy store in Harlem overcrowded with cheap plastic toys imported from sweatshops around the world. I wanted a cap gun, the kind the boys in my building used to run around shooting, but my parents forbade it. With regret, I gave up on that campaign and focused my lust on a thick wooden skateboard decorated on the underside with a Bruce Lee-inspired painting of a shirtless Asian man in jeans. I believe it asaid “Kung Fu” above his head, in Kung Fu font.

In retrospect, that skateboard was the first significant purchase I made with my own money. I saved my allowance for weeks and did extra chores for extra coin to reach my goal more quickly. Then, through much whining, I convinced my dad to walk me to the store on his day off and plunked down my money for the prize. I can still picture the shopkeeper taking my Kung Fu board off the display shelf behind the counter and handing it over.

Many happy trips to the park followed, where more often than riding the board upright, I would take it to the top of a hill, sit on it and grip the plastic hand grips on either side as I rolled to the bottom. It functioned mainly as a sled on wheels. It had a large red plastic bumper, which I could activate like a brake by lifting my legs up in the air, leaning back and using my butt to tip the end of the board toward the pavement. Good times.

A couple years later, a friend’s older brother declared my Kung Fu board a piece of shit and proceeded to prove its poor construction by slamming it repeatedly into the stoop until deep scratches stretched across the mildly offensive design and, finally, the flimsy wood splintered and split in two.

I guess the lessons here are that big brothers can be cruel and cheap things never last.

Vintage Automotive Fabrics

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Forgive me, trashies, for I have splurged. Living in Brooklyn is a true test for a lover of upcycling. A slew of boutiques boasting fashionably recycled goods line the path between my apartment and the shops where I buy my groceries. I spotted this Kim White bag at Kaight a week ago and was taken by the Southwest design, even more so when I discovered the designer uses salvaged car upholstery.

Kim White Red Southwest Bag

From White’s website:

Why are Kim White Handbags so special? Made from vintage automotive fabrics, Kim White uses dead stock never-used textiles intended for use in American automobiles: cars, trucks and vans. She fortuitously unearthed an entire warehouse of automotive fabric, which may be the last existing stock anywhere in the US, and she is the sole owner of these amazing textiles.

I took a photo of the bag, waited a week and went back for it. As luck would have it, Kaight advertised a “shop your values” deal on Twitter so I got a slight break on the steep price. I figure fabric designed for the inside of cars aught to last a while. It’s cute, right?


Dumpster (Flesh with Turquoise Swoosh) #DDD12

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I thought Decorative Dumpster Day was over, but then this evening, while flipping through an art magazine, I discovered this magnificent piece by the Japanese-born, LA-based artist Kaz Oshiro.

Kaz Oshiro's Dumpster (Flesh with Turquoise Swoosh) 2011

The photo appeared in the fabulous Walker Art Center‘s monthly magazine as part of a feature on a new show called Lifelike. According to the Walker website, “Lifelike invites a close examination of artworks based on commonplace objects and situations, which are startlingly realistic, often playful, and sometimes surreal.”

Check out an interview with the painter/sculptor here. My favorite bit is Oshiro discussing his choice of media:

If you know the construction of a painting, you have a wood frame and you stretch canvas over it. So that structure is kind of important, and you can’t really go beyond that. The objects I’m making are boxes. If you see the conventional painting frame, it’s kind of thin. But in my case, wood stretcher bars become a box and then I stretch canvas over it.

I’ve been making trash bins and dumpsters for awhile. Sometimes I’m not sure why. Somehow I’m really attracted to it. You see dumpsters everywhere in the United States on the street. I drive around town. In LA, I have to drive everywhere. Somehow I always see things on the street, and everything’s coming from my memory.

Why I paint them? First of all, I like the shape of the metal big box. You see all kinds of marks on it. The [form of the] dumpster allows me to paint the way abstract painters do. That’s one of the things I like about painting dumpsters. To me, it’s existing between representation and abstract painting.

Dumpster Cameras #DDD12

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Perhaps my favorite decorated dumpster story of all time is this one via inhabitat. German trash collectors turned dumpsters into pinhole cameras to take stunning photos.

Dumpster camera

It’s a twist on decorating a dumpster, rather than dressing it up, they transformed waste receptacles into beauty-making machines.

Photo taken by dumpster

Decorative Dumpster Day 2012!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 1st is Decorative Dumpster Day. Each year, my colleagues in trash Little Shiva and Ruby Re-usable  and I take a day to post photos of and reflect upon the containers in which we store our waste. Today our sites, The Visible Trash Society and Olympia Dumpster Divers will share links from our own collections and maybe a few from around the blogosphere. Happy DDD!

%d bloggers like this: