Save Reno Dumpster Diving presents part of an ethnotgraphy about "trash" to expose the complexity of castaway goods and some of the issues at hand as the City of Reno's proposed ban on trash scavenging remains to be resolved.
The following thoughts on "trash" comes from the ethnography--discarded objects: objectification of trash: a look at the transcendence of objecthood and thingness by Sekai Moswaswe:
How do we come to be so detached and disgusted by something so identifiably “ours”—that is, our personal discarded goods? Trash is something that we at some point had an investment in, and our relationship demonstrates the fleeting investments in objects in an age of abundance.
Trash serves more than just specific social functions, trash is also political. An individuals relationship with trash is imbued with energy of polemics. Discarding objects is such a political act in the sense that we are making bold statements that attest to our answer to the ultimate political question of how we are to live in this world.
Trash further retains the ability to be revolutionary. For instance, freegans are revolutionaries who use their relationship with trash as a demonstration of their relatively extreme perspectives. Freeganism is an anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist anarchist lifestyle philosophy that is centered upon the refusal to consume anything directly. Adherents to this lifestyle choice sustain themselves with the discarded goods of others. Hitchhiking, dumpster diving and freecycling are dominant methods of survival.
In addition to its basic social functions, trash is economy. Trash has become a significant economic base for survival. In Argentina, Ciruja’s are garbage scavengers who are formalizing their once informal enterprise as a legitimate industry. They collect garbage that they recycle or sell to other industries directly for a profit. In Buenos Aires, there are about 120,000 full-time garbage scavengers. There are parallels to Argentina’s ciruja’s throughout the world. In Egypt, the Zabbaleen use donkey-drawn carts. In the Philippines, the Boyte Diario collects trash from residents.
Trash functions as community in the sense that it is the central gathering and residential ground for thousands of economically depressed people throughout the world. In economically depressed regions of the world, adults and children alike live where they are secondary to the trash whose space they appropriate for themselves.
Trash further serves as art. Magazines, websites, museums and individual artists have used trash as the muse and practical base for their artistry. Entire objects have been constructed just from discarded goods.
Trash is no more than an object with dispossessed value. It can be said that by virtue of ones possession, the fact that an item becomes trash is essentially the dispossession or expulsion of its value. Why do we refuse to use items to the ultimate point of futility?
There is perhaps a spirit of trash. Many cultures infuse some component of animism in their religious or cultural thought. The idea that objects are not just physical but possess a spiritual component has been enduring. Due to dumpster divers, garbage scavengers, and recycling an object can be created, discarded and recreated for the same or an entirely different use and perhaps still be imbued with the same sort of spirit it possessed originally.
Are we becoming an overly disposable culture? Is trash the only thing that has become increasingly disposable or are other areas of our life affected?
Are we equally noncommittal with our relationships, careers and education? This idea of trash—the ability to discard and recreate and take advantage of alternatives is related to the creation of trash. We change majors, careers, appearances and recreate our personalities with ease. What else do we trash?