Currently reading: Heather Rogers – Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage (selected quotes continued)
Chapter 5: The Golden Age of Waste
Rogers outlines the three distinct ways the “Fordist” super-efficient postwar manufacturing system massively increased trash in 1950s America (p.104):
1. Less recycled inputs from household wastes handled by independent junk traders
2. Built new forms of waste into both commodities and production process
3. Demand of unprecedented levels by consumption. The main by product of which was garbage.
p.110: As the Cold War gained momentum, government and US industry alike began equating democracy with freedom to purchase.
The means of expanding consumption were two fold (p.111-112):
1. Encouraging over-consumption of more than one of everything from refrigerators to cars to homes
2. Designing products with prefigured “death dates” becoming obsolete due to fashion and design changes (built in obsolescence)
p.113: Technological obsolescence was employed as early as 1939 when General Electric manufactured light bulbs to burn out faster so they would need to be replaced more often.
p.115: The apex of built in obsolescence was the disposable commodity. Marketed under the alluring dual banner of cleanliness and convenience […] widespread production and consumption of disposables kicked off a whole new level of wasting (chiefly packaging).
On plastics as the embodiment of the wastefulness of the postwar period (p.119): A Roland Barthes noted, “The hierarchy of substances is abolished: a single one replaces them all: the whole world can be plasticized.” Roland Barthes – Mythologies (p98-99)
p.125: John Berger: “The passive worker becomes the active consumer. The working self envies the consuming self.” John Berger – Ways of Seeing (p.148-49)
Chapter 5: Spaceship Earth: Waste and Environmentalism
p.131-132: Apollo 8’s voyage to the moon, just months before the inaugural E-Day [Earth Day], produced one of the first photographs of planet earth from outer space. This image unexpectedly showed viewers everywhere an image of the earth as a finite resource and helped trigger an awareness of the limits of nature’s abundance, creating what came to be known as the “overview effect.”
p.143: KAB [Keep America Beautiful]’s Heritage of Splendour (1963) “educational” film narrated by Ronald Reagan: “Trash only becomes trash after it has first served a useful purpose. It becomes litter only after people thoughtlessly discard it.”
p.152: A Karl Marx write, “The worker puts his life into the object, but now his life no longer belongs to him but to the object.” If this is true, then in our current system, the worker’s life belongs not only to the commodity he or she makes, but also increasingly to the garbage graveyard. In this regard, garnage is not just nature but human labor throen away.
Chapter 6: Recycling: The Politics of Containment
On industry’s resistance to recycling (p.169): After a three year battle [in which] MacDonald’s described Styrofoam as “basically air” that was benign to landfills because it “aerated the soil,” the fast food giant gave up using the stuff in 1990.
p.230: Garbage is the detritus of a system that unscrupulously exploits not only nature, but also human life and labor.