One of the wonders of modern society is that someone comes and takes our garbage away. Much like the ingenious toilet, curbside garbage pickup makes us an incredibly cleaner and more hygienic society, but it also allows us to not have any responsibility for dealing with the waste that we produce. You throw something out and it’s gone.
This delightful little video, Leftovers to Landfills, from Los Angeles public radio station KPCC tries to disabuse us of that notion. It tracks what actually happens to our garbage, in a style reminiscent of those interlude videos on Mr. Rogers or Sesame Street.
First, see your trash hit the dumpster at the restaurant, where it’s picked up by your friendly neighborhood garbage man. It’s added to ever-increasing sized trucks of garbage and eventually brought to a giant warehouse, where workers sort through it for recyclables. And so on, down the chain, until it ends up in a landfill, being flattened by a bulldozer.
The video may be light on garbage facts, but it does put the entire waste disposal chain into perspective in terms of how many people and hours it takes to move our giant piles of garbage. The next time you throw something away, you might not give it much thought, but now you know it’s going on a long and costly journey.