Garbology in the Time of Coronavirus

I’ve found myself buying more snack foods than usual, I’m vegetarian so I know about how much vegetables i need to last me about a week. I have noticed since this pandemic I have wanted to lessen my trips to the grocery store. This has led me to over stock on perishables and I have had to throw out many fruits and vegetables before I could even cook them. I’m still currently working so I have found myself consuming more food from work to try and preserve the food I’ve bought. Although this contradicts my entire issue of overbuying and food going bad very quickly. 

The apartment complex I live in has shown me many signs of how the virus is multiplying their garbage. Many people have started leaving their garbage bags in the hallway. I believe that with the more trash generated the less energy these people have to take them down to the garage bins. Another note I have taken from our building is how the compost bins are empty and the garbage and recycling are overflowing. The only recycling I spotted were from packages, barely any separate trash bags for recycling.

 In a recent Seattle Times article by Michael Corkey and David Yaffe-Bellany, they state many farmers that are known to supply large portions of the country are dumping fresh milk and plowing vegetables. Even with grocery store shortages the loss of business through hotels, restaurants, and schools for farmers is immense. Dairy Farmers of America are dumping an estimate of 3.7 million gallons a day. This level of waste that could be going towards homeless and low income individuals is astonishing. This article states that they try to give to food banks but the transportation would cost too much out of their pockets, one farmer states that redistributing the quantities they are talking about is impossible. 

I believe that if a future archaeologist were to study our trash from our current times they would see large waste of fresh foods and that slowly shifting into consumption of instant packaged meals over time. One thing that I am unsure of what they will see is the use of to go cups and boxes increasing or not. In a Grist article by L.V Anderson dating back in mid March the question arises if the zero waste movement will survive the Coronavirus. Reusable cups and bags are prohibited at most establishments. They state that one of the greenest self practices there has been is reusing goods and packaging, and that reverting back to paper or plastic will have harsh tolls. I question how this outcome may play into effect with so many businesses’ being shut down. Will we see a rise in online shopping bags and receipts that will mirror the amount of shopping bags we would receive in person or will this end with a lower or higher usage? Will take out food containers amount to the same or more when many people who ordered in would end up taking food in to go boxes while dining in? 

Anderson, L.V. “Can the Zero-Waste Movement Survive the Coronavirus?” Grist. Grist, March 16, 2020.

Yaffe-bellany, David, and Michael Corkery. “Dumped Milk, Smashed Eggs, Plowed Vegetables: Food Waste of the Pandemic.” The New York Times. The New York Times, April 11, 2020.

About Me: Savannah

Hello! My name is Savannah, I am junior at University of Washington and am currently double majoring in anthropology and interdisciplinary art. My main focus is towards queer and Black communities. My goal is to use my education to open up opportunities and necessary conversations in my own communities. To help decolonize the structures set against us and help find creative outlets for dealing with generational trauma and to study where those roots are from.

This will be my second archaeology course with Professor Gonzales and I can’t wait to learn more about multiple fields in archaeology.