For as long as I have been alive, trash has been apart of my life. Trash is always around but often just a an afterthought. My mission for trash has always been, make sure it gets to the trash can, then its off to a better world. A world far away where trash lives the remainder of its life happy and hopefully will someday be reborn into something new and more useful.
Upon moving to New York, I often explored the city on foot, drifting up and down the avenues and streets taking note of each detail along the way. It did not take long before I was constantly focusing on the great amount of trash along the street side. This bounty of trash seemed endless. No matter how far I walked, where I walked or when I walked, there was always a pile of trash to accompany me. It is then that I began to asked more questions about my knowledge of the life of trash.
As I began to inquire about waste with questions like where does it go and what happens to it when it gets there. How does it get to where its going and who is responsible for getting it there safely? I quickly realized that I had no answer to any of these questions. I began very simply to search for answers to these questions. Web searches, contacting the sanitation department and 311 did not leave me with answers, but surprisingly, uncovered a whole new set of questions, mainly what is trash, how many types of trash are there and where does trash come from? It was the countless questions and lack of answers that led to create the project ‘Life of Trash’.
Life of Trash is a project aimed to better understand the migration of trash beginning from the moment an item has been deposited into a trash can until its final resting place. If given the ability to understand where and how trash travels after it has left our possession, we will not only be able to better improve the system which collects, sorts and processes trash, but also create an awareness and dialogue in the public sphere leading to better practices involving waste.
In order to better understand this migration of waste, Life of Trash focuses on tracking individual items of trash from various households and locations in New York City using modern technology. Various location sensors are to be placed in a wide variety of trash and then thrown away as normal throughout the city. The location sensors will transmit the location of each item of trash over the course of several months which will then be complied into a database allowing analysis and post visualization. By gathering this specific type of information, analysts will have an imperial and temporal way to understand the migration of trash which has previously been next to impossible to capture.
Life of Trash is highly based off of the project Trash Track which took place in Seattle and was conducted by the MIT SENSEable Lab. Life of Trash will build upon the previous research by focusing on gathering a longer sample of data, focusing specifically on New York cities trash collection as well as place an emphasis on getting various citizen groups to participate in the project to create awareness around the life of trash in an urban setting.
To raise awareness and understanding of trash migration from its disposal into the trash can until if final destination(landfill, recycling plant etc)
Citizens – the deployment of the tracking devices should be done by ordinary citizens for a variety of reasons. First, the creates a random sample to understand all of the potential routes and destination. Second, citizen involvement at this level will begin to build a substantial foundation for greater citizen involvement and awareness throughout the course of the project and into the future. If the researchers alone distributed trash, there would be little citizen awareness or participation at all. Thirdly, practically deploying a great number of tracking device would be difficult for a small set of people but when dispersed amongst a large group of citizens becomes manageable.
New York City – various offices through the city will be needed to coordinate the project. Everything from organizing the citizens on the deployment day, alerting the Department of Sanitation about the project actions, communicating with corporate telecommunications aid to gather the tracking data and a greater access to funding and press will be needed.
Telecommunications Infrastructure – collaboration with communication networks will be essential in order to have access to the infrastructure needed to physically track thousands of pieces of trash.
Data Scientists – for gathering and analyzing location data after the deployment of trackers.
Development Engineers – this is a group of people who will potentially design and build the physical devices to track trash.
Design and build thousands of small robust tracking devices which can be placed into trash and transmit their location over the course of several months.