Tagging and tracking the trash

dumpsterEver wondered where your rubbish goes when it leaves your house? The New Scientist people obviously have, and so they’re teaming up with MIT to find out:

The team behind the experiment, MIT’s Senseable City lab, led by Carlo Ratti, have made a device that is about the size of a small matchbox and that works like a cell phone – without the phone bit. A SIM card inside the chip blips out its location every 15 minutes, the signal is picked up by local cell phone antennae and the chip’s location is relayed back to MIT.

Ratti’s team and New Scientist have already deployed a test run of 50 tracked items of trash ranging from paper cups to computers in Seattle. Several thousand more will be released in Seattle and New York garbage cans later this summer and we’ll chuck a batch into the London trash for good measure.

This should be an interesting experiment, and something like a first step toward Chairman Bruce’s “spimes” – objects whose entire life-cycle – cradle to grave, as they say – is trackable and searchable. Perhaps, when we have a better understanding of what happens to all the stuff we throw away and instantly forget, we’ll stop being so casual about our throw-away culture – and about the manufacturing and packaging practices of the companies we buy things from. As New Scientist puts it:

Think of what happens when the garbage men go on strike. We complain that they’re not doing their job – but where did all that trash come from to begin with?

[image by mugley]

One thought on “Tagging and tracking the trash”

  1. I wonder about this project as the largest category of waste in landfills tends to be construction debris rather than household garbage. What it will show will be interesting but probably inessential. Carlo Ratti, one of the principals on this project, knows this because I’ve mentioned it to him.

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