The Transparent Removal Chain

[Overflowing Trash Cans in Toronto, Summer 2009 via blogto]

While the garbage workers strike in Toronto this past year promoted less tourism and flourishing populations of fruit flies, it also made most Torontonians aware of the amount of garbage they produce in a short amount of time.  Researchers at MIT's SENSEable City Lab are embarking on a research project to make people conscious of where their trash goes once it is deposited into a trashcan.  Three thousand pieces of common garbage will tagged with GPS technology and monitored.  This 'trash transparency' is hoped to provide a understanding of how far garbage travels, costs and patterns of disposal, and the various stages of disposal.

Trash Track aims to make the removal chain more transparent. We hope that the project will promote behavioral change and encourage people to make more sustainable decisions about what they consume and how it affects the world around them.

[How Trash Track works, via SENSEable City Lab]

[The tracking device/ detective, via SENSEable City Lab]

While general awareness exists of the supply chain, the removal chain of objects is largely concealed.  Trash Track will be able to monitor the removal chain in real time, using New York and Seattle as test cities.  Trash track has the ability to critically examine the removal process and spark new discussion on sustainable disposal infrastructures.  In a city like Toronto, tracking trash would make residents aware of the massive distance and energy required to dispose of trash.  In 2006, Toronto diverted 696,327 tonnes of waste to Michigan Landfills.  This works out to approximately 150 truckloads of waste travelling a minimum of 300 kilometers to be disposed.  Statistics from the City of Toronto reveal that if 70% diversion through recycling could be achieved (up from approximately 40%), GHG emissions would be reduced by 25 percent (or equivalent to 100,000 cars), save 4.5 million trees per year, and save 900 kWh of energy annually.

[Following an Aluminum Can in Seattle via SENSEable City Lab]

[Following Soap Containers in New York, via SENSEable City Lab]

You can view Trash Track in realtime online, or in exhibitions at the Architectural League in New York and the Seattle Public Library.

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