Do you really know where your trash ends up after you've placed it on the curb? What about that coffee cup you carefully placed in the bin on the sidewalk? Are the recyclables you painstakingly separated really being recycled?
These are some of the questions that a new project by MIT researchers, Trash Track, seeks to answer.
More fundamentally, the scientists hope people will start asking, "Do I really need to buy a disposable (fill in the blank)? What is the alternative?
To get people asking these questions, the researchers are putting tiny electronic tags on trash (one can't help but note the irony in sending electronics to the trash in order to make people think twice about trashing their stuff).
"Trash Track relies on the development of special electronic tags that will track different types of waste on their journey through the disposal systems of New York and Seattle," the press release for the project reads. "The project will monitor the patterns and costs of urban disposal and create awareness of the impact of trash on our environment - revealing the last journey of our everyday objects."
Consumers are becoming more and more savvy about the purchases they make, asking questions about the origin of the materials used. (Is that wood Forest Stewardship Council-certified? Is the diamond conflict-free? What's the carbon footprint of the company selling me this?) This project aims to get us to think about the other end of the equation: Is the product reusable? Is it recyclable? What impact does it have after we're done with it?
Inspired by the Green NYC Initiative to boost recycling rates in New York, Trash Track will focus on New York City and Seattle at first. It will seek volunteers to help, so if you live in one of those cities contact the researchers if you want to participate.
If you don't live in New York or Seattle, but are planning to visit, check out the Trash Track blog, or in exhibits opening in September at the Architectural League in New York City and in the Seattle Public Library.
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