And no, I’m not talking about letting loose and enjoying a night out, acting completely out of character in the name of “Fun.” I am talking about Garbology. Yes! Garbology is a real thing. In archeology, the study of Garbage or any discarded waste by humans can tell us about our behavioral patterns. For archeologists, Learning about human behavior typically starts with the excavation of discarded waste in U.S land fills. One of the largest landfills in the U.S is Puente Hills Landfill in Los Angeles, California, having about 500 ft of trash and is stretched across 700 acres of land (Ch. 1. Murphy, 2001). So much garbage and with that, comes many hidden narratives that teach us about our social status, ways of living and the reasons for our panic buying during a domestic or global crisis.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation at home has really made me change my spending habits and become creative in cooking. Most of my kitchen discards found in my disposable waste bin were food packaging from the grocery store and a couple pizza boxes from occasional take out when I am overloaded with school and too stressed to cook. The act of being a home body, has made me bound to home cooking, in which I learned to cook meals that include a lot of healthy produce and are protein packed! Eggs are my number one household food essential as I make up multiple ways to use it to cook a variety of foods that is not only for breakfast. Eggs also cook very fast so I am able to whip up meals in 15 min or less which helps me get more done through out the day. The things I have been consuming have changed drastically since the pandemic. I no longer see trash derived from outside food places in which I used to consume because of being on a tight-knit schedule as a mobile college student at UW.
In my neighborhood , I expect to see more trash that cater to the cleanliness of in home appliances and home cooking as well. Trash that include empty hand sanitizer bottles, gloves, disposable medical masks and a composition of different grocery packaging. I also expect to see a lot of bare toilet paper rolls, as the overbuying of toilet paper seems to be the common product that people are over consuming during this crisis. Chip Cowell in his article, “Why We Buy Weird Things in Times of Crisis,” explains the coined term, “irrational exuberance” where people tend to lose sight of a commodities true value. Perhaps, people tend to over buy to feel secure in times of uncertainty, but why do we feel like we need more in order to feel good about ourselves? As an American culture that often over consumes, one might feel a sense of rational control and security when over stocking on household items. Once this pandemic has passed, a future archeologist that examines our trash at the time might think that it’s an over consumption of items that didn’t need to be bought in the first place. I think an archeologist would be baffled at the amount of household items we’ve consumed in the upcoming months of this pandemic.
1. Rathje, W. L., & Murphy, C. (2001). Rubbish!: the Archaeology of Garbage. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.
2. Colwell, Chip. 2020 Mar 19. “Why We Buy Weird Things in Times of Crisis.” Sapiens. Accessed April 18, 2020. https://www.sapiens.org/column/curiosities/panic-buying-coronavirus/
3. SpongeBob Square pants, Giphy.