When I teach classes about the anthropology of waste and discards, I always designate one 48-hour period in which my students and I keep all the trash we would otherwise throw out. (I kindly exclude recyclables and anything that normally gets flushed.) The effort teaches a few important lessons.
Robin Nagle: What I discovered in New York City trashIt demonstrates that trash generation is done casually, without much thought at all. My students get an intimate sense of just how deeply their habits of wasting are engrained in their minds. Because they’re unable to let go of it, even for a short time, they also become aware of how trash is otherwise mostly invisible to them.
Here are a few exercises and questions to help you change your own awareness of waste. And I mean waste as both a practice and as a category of material.
1. Choose a disposable object that you use regularly – a take-out coffee cup, a plastic shopping bag, a tissue for wiping your nose – and replace it with its durable counterpart (a reusable coffee cup, a cloth shopping bag, a handkerchief). Notice how often you forget to bring the durable version with you. Notice the kind of attention and care it requires when you do remember it. How does it change your relationship to that object? Does it inspire any reflections about the rhythms and habits of your daily life? Of the larger society around you?
Sep. 23, 2013 — Audio CDs, all the rage in the ’90s, seem increasingly obsolete in a world of MP3 files and iPods, leaving many music lovers with the question of what to do with their extensive compact disk collections.
While you could turn your old disks into a work of avant-garde art, researchers in Taiwan have come up with a more practical application: breaking down sewage.
"Optical disks are cheap, readily available, and very commonly used," says Din Ping Tsai, a physicist at National Taiwan University. Close to 20 billion disks are already manufactured annually, the researchers note, so using old disks for water treatment might even be a way to cut down on waste.
Tsai and his colleagues from National Taiwan University, National Applied Research Laboratories in Taiwan, and the Research Center for Applied Sciences in Taiwan used the large surface area of optical disks as a platform to grow tiny, upright zinc oxide nanorods about a thousandth the width of a human hair.
Zinc oxide is an inexpensive semiconductor that can function as a photocatalyst, breaking apart organic molecules like the pollutants in sewage when illuminated with UV light.