See the still unfair conditions of private sanitation labor.
See the Department of Sanitation Artist-In-Residence.
See the Department of Sanitation Anthropologist-in-Residence.
See the beginnings of garbology.
See maps of current DSNY Service Requests.
See what is happening in Discard Studies.
See freegans' idea of waste.
See solar powered BigBelly litter baskets.
As a part of the public, we too must consider how we think about trash every single day.
On April 22, 1970, millions of New Yorkers attended the first Earth Day, and the idea of trash and its place in a city shifted once more as a larger environmental campaign to save the earth officially began through municipal recycling. That same year, the federal government established the Environmental Protection Agency with the Resource Recovery Act, again changing the way the Department of Sanitation considered sorting and collecting. The landscape of trash in New York City also was changing, as industry and landfills once in the city became pushed out of the five boroughs. However, these changes were built and often continued the legacy of cleanliness being linked to unbalanced structures of power, where the wealthy and white have been heard and considered clean, while the poor and “others” have been stigmatized as dirty and helpless.
Today’s familiar green wire public litter baskets are made at Corcraft, a company under the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.1However, the diverse litter baskets seen on the streets available are from companies that sponsor litter baskets of their own colorful designs and industrial designers commissioned specifically for NYC parks.2 The Department of Sanitation baskets now hold stickers (instead of paint) barring Household Trash (punishable by a $100 fine). Plastic bags are a key technological element of collection; many popular neighborhoods’ public trash collected in bags with neighborhood-based logos. The branding of location also signal patterns of the contents inside. Even if some locations are considered “cleaner” and others “dirtier,” everything collected in those bags all are still considered trash.
How do we talk to those around us how to think about the things around us? How do we decide what is clean? How do we know what is worth keeping?
“A History of Trash in Sight” brings trash literally into sight, providing views into often overlooked or avoided litter baskets to reimagine these definitions and their accompanying values. Past Sanitation Education programs both inside and outside of the classroom were used create imaginary publics, a method of control in what seemed to be an uncontrollable city. The definitions of trash (even of “clean” and “dirty”) constantly changed, depending on who, what, and when the trash was created. This closer look at what we have thrown away – what we deem dirty or unsanitary – reveals much more.
Sanitation education continues today in many forms (including this project). Municipal sanitation education now also focuses on new categories like compost for what we no longer want. This education is important, for in Manhattan alone, an estimated 4,000,000 people use the streets, buying and discarding things every day, accumulating up to 68,000 tons of litter each year. Some of that 68,000 tons public trash surely can be reconsidered whether it really belongs in a litter basket. While we help New York’s Strongest continue to keep the streets clean, we also can rethink what things we throw away, what places we think are dirty, what it means to be a part of the public.
Are you a part of the public?
♬ “Watching Litter.” Madison Square Park, 2017.
All unsourced material has been produced by jaime ding.