What would researchers find if they studied the contents of your trash dumpster?

You can tell a lot about a people by what you find in their trash cans and dumpsters. In fact, “the study of modern refuse and trash” is known as garbology. According the Wikipedia, the term was coined by AJ Weberman to describe the journalistic technique by which the contents of Bob Dylan’s trash were analyzed.

What’s in our garbage today? Many may recall the story on 60 Minutes several years ago about the 30 year old Twinkie, still intact within its original plastic wrapper. Who knows what someone might find by taking a core sample at the Pratt County Landfill?

Our society today is built upon the idea of planned obsolescence. Nothing is built to last. Refrigerators today have an average life span 13-14 years. Compare that to my grandmother’s 45 year old Frigidaire, which she replaced just this year due to not having sufficient energy to defrost her freezer anymore. It was still running, otherwise.

Subsequently, our landfills are filling up with major home appliances and other electronic products. I wonder what the view looks like from an airplane flying low over a landfill with a few hundred big screen televisions reflecting in the afternoon summer sun.

Garbology might be compared to archaeology in that garbologists “excavate” dumpsters and landfills. One possible garbological study (it sure is fun making up new words) would be to analyze the trash that blows down our streets before it comes to rest within in our flower beds, trees, weeds, and other shrubbery. On my street these days, we find calculator register tapes and packing lists for all sorts of tobacco products, blown in from the Cigarette Outlet on the highway. Lottery tickets were a more typical artifact when the convenience store stood in the same location.

I have discovered one advantage to being a “hobby garbologist,” if you will. It has the potential to improve your finances a bit. I have found nickels, dimes, quarters, and even the occasional dollar bill while out walking the dog in the morning. The dog has picked up a few tasty artifacts as well. That’s my kind of garbology.