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Our Disposal System

March 15, 2011

We are learning more about where our things come from, but we pay very little attention to where they go. If you live in an urban environment, you probably put anything you want to discard on the street for a trash collection company to pick up. But do you know what happens to that trash after it leaves your curb?

A project called TrashTrack through a MIT research initiative, Senseable City Lab, is tackling that question and trying to increase awareness of the ‘removal-chain’. As part of the project, people in Seattle dropped off items of trash, which were then tagged with a smart technology that could transmit data back to a central server and track trash trajectories. Here is a visualization of the results:

It’s interesting to note that if you look at the final map of recorded traces, some of the items that travel the greatest distance are the bright green (hazardous materials) and the orange (electronics). The item that traveled the farthest? An ink cartridge.

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