Garbage: How population, landmass, and development interact with culture in the production of waste

Garbage is the waste and discarded items of society. Archeologists obsessively dig up is historic or prehistoric garbage – the useless, broken, and unwanted. Yet, these digs tell us a great deal about the society in which the items were used. Countless inferences can be made from what is discarded, how it is discarded, where it is discarded, and why. Was it broken, used, consumed, or unwanted? These same questions and answers have as much to tell us about modern societies. What is discarded and thrown away? Is it broken, or merely unwanted? Has it been consumed, or was it past it's “shelf-life”? Along with this archaeological inferability goes the notion of the society in which it is discarded. Is it a modern “developed” society? Using datasets available from the United Nations and World Bank detailing waste generation, economic development, population, and land area, this paper will argue that waste generation is not only a product of the society in which it is based, but also profoundly affected by the rate and the way at which the society has approached modernity. Countries will likely always produce waste, but what becomes waste, and how much, is a product of the particular society and the technology they have to eliminate it.

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