ArtCraftTech 2010: Tracing Trash

There were four components to Tracing Trash:

Talking trash: Video, audio and data analysis from public research and interviews.

The trash vitrine: Nine clear vitrines that reveal patterns of day to day life through stratified layers of garbage collected over time. The non-disposable to go container (aka n-dtgc) proposed designs for a container that could be used in many different circumstances.

Guerrilla composting: A how-to video about where to take your useful food scraps.

DERIVA-TRIVIA: A dialogue about the role of derivatives and commodities in the trajectory of trash.


Talking Trash
From October 23-November 13 we spent 4 days Talking Trash in McCarren Park in Williamsburg and Union Square Park in Manhattan, with our orange jumpsuits and the Tracing Trash signs, ready to receive garbage. We requested a week's worth, or a day's worth, or a garbage can's worth, of what you throw out, in whatever form you choose (separated, not, etc.). No meat trash, diapers, or kitty litter, please. We exhibited the collected trash in our pristine vitrines.

Check out our photos on Flickr!

Some of our questions are:

- What's your favorite kind of garbage?

- What can we do with garbage besides throw it away or recycle it?

- How long do you think it takes to accumulate your own weight in garbage?

- How far do you think you would have to walk to follow your trash to its final destination?

- How often each week to you get take-out food?

- Which containers do you re-use?

- Would you be willing to bring a container back to your local take-out place to be re-used?

- Has the recent financial crisis impacted the amount of garbage we produce?

Ideas and information gleaned:

- Figure out ways of shifting the burden of decision-making about waste management further in the direction of institutions, rather than individuals. For example, the non-disposable to-go container being part of food distribution systems.

- In District 3 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, there are several initiatives in the schools to reduce trash and waste and encourage recycling.

- Switzerland has a complex system of garbage disposal:

"In many parts of Switzerland, householders are charged for garbage disposal and garbage will only be collected if it is in bags which either have a payment sticker attached, or in official bags on which a surcharge is paid when the bags are purchased. Since recycling is free, this gives a financial incentive to recycle as much as possible." (source)

- Suggestion: Starbucks should start a flagship store where they only sell coffee to people who bring their own cups. They could sell their own Starbucks re-usable cups (as they already do). - Food shapes will affect non-disposable to go container shapes (e.g. pizza will need a different shape than rice and beans)


The non-disposable to-go container (or N-DTGC) is a plan for revolutionizing the use of to-go and take-out containers.  Within this idea are a million other ideas about institutional responsibility for waste, how we view our relationship to our material lives and eating, etc. etc. It's a complex problem, but we want to start with just finding one prototype container that can be as useful as possible.

As Neha Sabnis formulates it:
"Total number of food containers in a given system stay constant, they can only be transferred from one user to another." - Tracing Trash’s Law of Conservation of Food Containers

This hypothesis is supported by the joint effort of N-DTGC1 Design and n-dtgc DN2, as a part of generating a DCW3 Free Society.

1N-DTGC: Non-Disposable To Go Containers

2n-dtgc DN: Non-Disposable To Go Container’s Distribution Network

3DCW: Disposable Container Waste

There are several scenarios  we have considered for a to-go container.  One model is the tiffin, or dabbah, system in Mumbai, India (diagrams by E. Maltby):

There are a few designs we've come up with so far (sketches and design details by N. Sabnis):

Guerilla Composting

Guerilla composting: Want to compost in New York City? Where can you take your food scraps? And what do cows eat? Tracing Trash members Jill Slater and Sara Eichner and their families take us on a journey through country and city food scrap options.

Our discussion about food justice and urban land use led us to a natural end conclusion: garbage. Where does it come from, where does it go, and what's in it?

Want more? Check out the Tracing Trash blog.

ACT10 was directed by Clarinda Mac Low (Culture Push co-director) and Elliott Maltby (Landscape architect and organizer). Check out the bios of the core participants here!

ACT10 is made possible in part with public funds from the Fund for Creative Communities, supported by the New York State Council on the Arts and administered by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.

Tracing Trash was presented in a variety of places:
With Farm City Chautauqua as part of the New Museum Festival of New Ideas for the New City
Tracing Trash also put on the Food Trash Variety Show as part of the Farm City Chautauqua on May 25, 2011 at 61 Local Public House.
The Tracing Trash Finale at 319 Scholes Gallery, including the Trash-themed dinner, took place Feb. 6-12, 2011.
On December 4, ACT10 participated in the DIRT conference at St. John's University in lower Manhattan.