Tag Archives: rubbish

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]

A new king of the Rubbish

This refuse isn’t going awayIt’s that classic pub quiz question that fools everyone: what is the biggest man made thing on the planet? Of course, nine times out of ten we’ll say with great confidence “The Great Wall Of China”. After all, it can be seen from space, right? However the smug quizmaster (or a contestant that had this question in trivial pursuit years ago) will inform you that the real answer is rubbish: the giant landfill of rubbish on Staten Island, Fresh Kills. The remains of the World Trade Centre is there.

However, if you get this question in a quiz, you can now happily outsmug the quizmaster, albeit tinged with a bit of self-loathing for the impact of your species. The largest man-made object is now an even bigger collection of human waste. It’s not a landfill, at least not intentially. It’s the size of Africa, some ten million square miles. It’s at the centre of the Pacific ocean and it’s full of plastic refuse. The circular atmospheric currents form a ring of current, inside which there is a still region of ocean where anything drifting into the Pacific accumulates. Non-biodegradable plastics that reach this point will never leave, being broken down by the sun into ever smaller pieces to make their way into the entire marine food chain.

[via Daily Kos, image by countrygirlathome]