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Students and Dustbins

Not to disagree with our esteemed leader, but examining dustbins can be quite useful as an educational tool. Depends of course on what is being taught.

I remember watching a show about an archeology professor who took his students to the land fill that services New York. They dig an excavation to find out about recent history. They learned a variety of techniques in the process.

They learned an amazing piece of information during their lesson. The time of greatest waste of beef was during the time when there was a beef shortage. People would buy up the beef whenever they found it for sale, stick it in their freezer and then forget about it until it went bad at which point they stuck it in their dust bin.

I know that John was not referring to this type of research though.

Re: Students and Dustbins

Brad,

Interesting, as ever, and another fine example unintended consequences.

In the UK it has been observed similarly with petrol (gasoline). Iirc during the last fuel duty blockades a few years ago a chap living in a city near me - in a row of terraced houses no less, decided to hoard a bath full of unleaded.

My guess is it would be unlikely that he would throw it away when the panic was over - it is survived that long. However had he done so the thought of it gurgling through the drains is energising. Of course much of the city could do with re-generation and he would have circumvented the planning committees by default.

I blame much of the food waste that is these days claimed by 'experts' on the use of "use by" dates. The comestible equivalent of planned obsolescence, most especially where long dates are involved.


Grant

Re: Students and Dustbins

It sounds like you're talking about "The Garbage Project". I think the most interesting finding from that project was:

link

"The average household in Mexico City produces one third more garbage a day than does the average American household. The reason for the relatively favorable U.S. showing is packaging -- which is to say, modernity."

THe investigation of rubbish in the US Garbage Project was carried out by archaeologists as a very up-to-date form of archaeology, which I believe is known as 'garbology'. But I don't think you would get these relatively politically neutral sort of people doing this kind of work in the UK. In the UK it's more likely to be conducted by sustainable development researchers, possibly even funded by Jonathon Porritt's Sustainable Development Commission.

Re: Students and Dustbins

"The average household in Mexico City produces one third more garbage a day than does the average American household. The reason for the relatively favorable U.S. showing is packaging -- which is to say, modernity."
---

And, of course, nothing to do with the average household size in Mexico City likely being rather larger than that in the USA as a whole.

Isn't this "rubbish snooping" story simply a question of property? Who owns the contents of a rubbish bin once it's been hauled off? If they own it, aren't they allowed to do anything (within the law) they see fit with it?

Re: Re: Students and Dustbins

I think the point here is that the 'project' was targeting a few specific bins - therefore households - at, or rather before, the point of collection but they were informed afterwards.

Now it could be that they normally disposed of some waste providing considerable personal information anticipating that the collection process would make if virtually anonymous when in fact in fact the project pretty much ensured that would not be the case one way or another.

At which point, between sorting through household waste and handing over disks full of usefully structure personal information (as our government seems relatively happy to do), one should draw a line of some sort is not clear.

If for some reason the 'authority' in question feels that they really do need the answer to the questions they should get people to agree to participate in the project or ensure that it is run in an anonymous way once they have taken possession of the waste concerned. The households can then make their decision about any changes they wish to make to the contents of the waste in the light of the revised standards of the service made available. That may or may not skew the results but I would doubt that the differences would be great in the majority of cases.

That said the latest proposals to counter 'fly tipping' itself mostly the by-product of the waste tax policies, make me wonder when we will all be expected to pay fee to be allowed to pass waste bodily fluids and similar.


Grant

Re: Re: Students and Dustbins

OK, I've checked up on the household size issue, James. According to this link, family size was, as might be expected, taken account of in the study:

link

"The tradeoff between food waste and packaging waste explains one of the most remarkable empirical results in the field of "garbage research." Detailed surveys in the early 1980s found that households in Mexico City discard more waste than urban and suburban U.S. households, even after correcting for family size (Restrepo et al., 1991; for a summary in English see Rathje and Murphy, 1992, pp. 216-219). The Mexican households threw out twice as much food waste, while the Americans threw out more packaging and other materials; on balance the Mexicans discarded more per capita."