questioning waste

by Annika McIntosch

Location: hidden

Waste reveals. Dumpsters are fleeting urban archaeology sites. Cultural attitudes are recorded at the moment when materials are disposed of. Any number of things might be given new life through waste recovery, but the focus here is on food.

Items with expiration dates, produce that has overstayed its shelf life, and “day-olds” or “over-bake” from bakeries are the most frequently wasted and recovered foods. Delivery of waste occurs on a schedule and dumpsters are frequently moved or exchanged. “Dumpster diving” or “urban foraging” is technically illegal, and dumpsters often sit on private property. However, picking through unwanted waste is less punishable than taking another’s possessions, and generally ignored. Visits are quick, unobtrusive and efficient, and there is an unspoken code of conduct for those who “dive.” Sites are not physically inhabited for social purposes, although informal communities evolve as friends exchange tips and information by word of mouth or through internet groups.

People scavenge for economic, political, environmental or ethical reasons. Some intercept waste to challenge our “throwaway” culture and protest imbalanced resource distribution. Others want to save money. Either way, the implications of this revaluing of waste ultimately stretch beyond dumpsters to suburban hills of garbage.



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Micro Urbanism

The term “micro-urbanism” describes small-scale urban spaces and design interventions that enable a wide variety of activities, events, processes and functions to take place. It also involves ways to reinterpret the urban landscape. As a class project, the purpose for creating this Guide is to bring attention to aspects of our everyday environment that are important but often neglected parts of the urban experiences.

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