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What design tools are available to conceptualize, approach, and shape the urban environment? What can we learn about the forms and processes of the urban from the geographies of trash? Beyond creating imagery, what is the agency of design in shaping the environment and technologies for its management? What are the social, political, and ecological imperatives of waste management, how are they hidden by contemporary practices, and how can design make them public? Can an alternative aesthetic and practice of waste management make trash a constructive component of the geographic imagination?

Geographies of Trash

Geographies of Trash Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy


Authors Rania Ghosn, El Hadi Jazairy

www.actar-d.com ISBN 978-1-940291-64-2 A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress, Washington D.C., USA. Printed and Bound in China

Project Team Ben Hagenhofer-Daniell Christina Kull Sangyun Lee Hans Papke Johnathan Puff Nithya Rathinam Aaron Weller

Images Credits Authors

Graphic Design Thumb/Luke Bulman with Camille Sacha Salvador, original design schema by Hans Papke Copyeditor Stephanie Tuerk Funding Geographies of Trash was made possible by a Research on the City grant from Alan and Cynthia Berkshire at University of Michigan Taubman College. The publication has benefited as well from the support of Taubman College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture and Planning. Publisher Actar Publishers, New York, 2015 Distributed by Actar D, Inc. New York 355 Lexington Avenue, 8th Floor New York, NY 10017 T +1 212 966 2207 F +1 212 966 2214 salesnewyork@actar-d.com

Barcelona Roca i Batlle 2 08023 Barcelona salesbarcelona@actar-d.com eurosales@actar-d.com

Copyrights Š 2015 Actar Publishers; Text and Images by the authors This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, re-use of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in other ways, and storage in data banks. For any kind of use, permission of the copyright owner must be obtained.


Geographies of Trash Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy

Actar Publishers, New York


Contents


Construct

  

Matter-in-place   10

Trash at the Boundaries    16

Represent

Scales of Trash     32

Airspace: Filling Land    40

Grid: Siting Landfills    58

Networks: Managing Waste Streams    66

Project

Collect   96

Contain  106

Preserve   114

Form  124

Assemble

Things  132


Construct


Matter-in-place In August 1966, LIFE Magazine published “Planet Earth by Dawn’s Early Light,” a photo-essay from the Gemini 10 shuttle flight. Capturing the earth from the most remote perspective to date, the final photograph of the series showed a single trash bag floating in space, a bag which contained objects that NASA intended to leave behind before the mission’s return to Earth. At over a million feet above the planet’s surface, the plastic bag and its contents seemed categorically unrelated to trash on Earth, more of a time capsule than litter. Suspended in outer space, the bag might be construed as what anthropologist Mary Douglas refers to as “matter-out-of place,” that is, transgressive matter whose presence reaffirms the purity of its surroundings. 1 Yet the short essay that closed the article alerted readers to the “growing clutter of space trash” arguing that the more than 1,200 large objects in orbit could someday “cause a serious traffic problem in space.” 2 Not even the infinite volume of outer space was exempt from the perils of trash. As the editors of LIFE observed, just as cities had become clogged with animal waste and garbage, space trash could eventually become the proper concern of extraterrestrial street cleaners. Similar concerns were also amassing on the ground. Although sanitation experts had increasingly rationalized the management and processing of waste in the first half of the twentieth century, garbage, and the question of its disposal continued to be a problem without a definitive solution. The federal government intervened with the Solid 1. Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (New York: Praeger, 1966), 36. 2. “Planet Earth by Dawn’s Early Light,” LIFE Magazine, August 5 1966, 28.

10 

Geographies of Trash


Trash at the Boundaries

1. “Trash, n.1”. OED Online. June 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com.proxy.lib. umich.edu/view/Entry/205217?rskey=qgydHV&result =1 (accessed July 25, 2012). Martin V. Melosi, Garbage in the Cities: Refuse, Reform, and the Environment (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005 [1981]), 53.

16 

Geographies of Trash


In the twenty-first century, it is easy to think of trash as a rudimentary subject. We assume that we know where our trash comes from and how it is disposed. When we buy something, we know what will be left over, and whether we will place the remains in the recycling bin or the garbage can. Sometimes trash is less visible, yet we can still intuit, for example, that unusable scraps were produced in the making of our clothes, and that even our precisely made electronic goods must have byproducts and remnants from their manufacture. No matter how much capitalism seeks to optimize the use of resources, trash seems inevitable and universal. It is difficult imagine that any civilization, no matter how old, would not have produced trash. But were these leftovers always considered trash? Does trash have a history? The origin of the word “trash” is obscure. Etymologically, it is suspected to derive from various sixteenth-century Scandinavian words — trask, tras, or tros — which referred to twigs removed from branches in the making of lumber.1 Five centuries later, the word trash still denotes the remnants from preparing an object for use, or from use itself. Parts that are of no use, or trash, must be removed and cast aside. Yet this definition needs further refinement to distinguish trash from other kinds of remains. Trash only becomes a category when something is actively thrown away, burned, abandoned, deemed unsanitary, or fed to the dogs. While plants and animals may have vestigial parts, or produce excrement, trash does not exist outside human work. However, the individual who throws something away is not the only arbiter of what constitutes trash. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Rather, the afterlife of discarded objects equally designates something as trash. Once an object enters the ecosystem of waste management, it no longer can be used, and is definitively trash. Ultimately, it is garbage collection that assesses which things have value and which things are, for human purposes, worthless.

Construct  

17


17

9

10 13

1

8

3

The Top 20 Waste Producers 1. United States 2. China 3. Brazil 4. Japan 5. Germany

6. India 7. Russian Federation 8. Mexico 9. United Kingdom 10. France

Source: 2012 World Bank “What a Waste” Report

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Geographies of Trash

11. Italy 12. Turkey 13. Spain 14. Indonesia 15. South Africa

16. Pakistan 17. Canada 18. Spo 19. Argentina 20. Nigeria

19


7

9 10 13

5 11

12

2

16

18

4

6 20 14

15

Represent  

35


Cap

Preserve

Form


Project

Contain

Collect


built and & negative space built negative space

new preserved land new preserved land

ecological “dump” sites ecological “dump” sites

preserved land preserved land

minor civil minor civildivisions divisions

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Geographies of Trash


5

6

1

2

4 A

A

3

1/2 township one-half (3 miles)

township (3 miles)

1. road river 1. 2. lake lake 2. 3. forest 3. forest 4. “dump” 4. dump 5. rail rail 5. 6. road 6. roadway

section A-A section A-A

Project  

119


baseline

57

58

59

60

61

62

63

64

49

50

51

52

53

54

55

56

41

42

43

44

45

46

47

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

8

survey survey

126 

48

7

6

5

4

2

1

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

9

10

11

12

13

14

3

15

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20

21

22

23

24 32

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

33

34

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64

waste cell cell partition partition

Geographies of Trash

pre-exisiting conditions:topography topography preexisting conditions:

waterway: waterway:lake, lake,pond pond


muskegon

grand haven

flint

grand rapids holland lansing hastings

lake michigan

charlotte

allegan

mason

eaton rapids

west bloomfield brighton lyon

novi farmington hills

lake st. clair detroit

southfield livonia dearborn

south haven battle creek marshall kalamazoo

albion

jackson

ann arbor

lake erie

benton harbor

Archipelago of of settlements with Archipelago settlements with respect to topre-exisiting preexisting conditions respect conditions

waterway: river, waterway: river,stream stream

forest

motorway motorway

town, town,city city

Project  

127


134 

Geographies of Trash


Assemble  

135


What design tools are available to conceptualize, approach, and shape the urban environment? What can we learn about the forms and processes of the urban from the geographies of trash? Beyond creating imagery, what is the agency of design in shaping the environment and technologies for its management? What are the social, political, and ecological imperatives of waste management, how are they hidden by contemporary practices, and how can design make them public? Can an alternative aesthetic and practice of waste management make trash a constructive component of the geographic imagination?

Geographies of Trash

Geographies of Trash Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy

Geographies of trash  
Geographies of trash  

In the Age of Environment, the scale waste management is geographic all while often relegating such undesired matter to invisibility as “mat...

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