Garbology or Vibeology?

Over the past week, the items which I have discarded the most can only be described as almost entirely food-related. Whether or not I was staying with my family, I had never felt so inspired to cook more than in these quarantined moments.

My usage of certain items has changed – mostly things indirectly affected by the outbreak. I’ve been doing much more laundry, so I’ve been going through soap a little faster. Obviously, since germs are such an issue during this time, there are quite a few empty soap bottles and hand sanitizer bottles that I’ve seen floating around my parents house. I’ve seen various distilleries and bars sell or donate their alcohols as a substitute hand sanitizer, and I think it’s wonderful that these businesses can still find a way to assist during these times.

I would expect to see much more food waste and things like paper towels and wrappers for things since people will be spending all of their time at home. There are still take out and carry out services available, but everyone knows there’s been a significant decrease in restaurant services, as the small business emergency relief program was created and it’s already hit its limit (Kurtzleben 2020).

I know that food services and industries and suffering, alongside farms, whether or not they’re on a commercial or a communal scale. I’ve heard tales of milk dumping (Gothamist 2020) due to the demand of dairy products being so incredibly low, what with restaurants and schools not needing dairy. While the vegan market may rejoice, there is no denying that people and their businesses are suffering in these times.

An absolutely absurd number of Americans have filed for unemployment with nowhere to turn. Socially, families are suffering. Many are getting better, and many are getting worse. These times are only so crazy because there is no way to interpret the way that this outbreak will be affecting everyone.

I’m sure if a future archaeologist were to look at our trash from the future, they would see an overabundance of suburban, family home trash, and that would be evident. I think the amount of medical/sterile waste would also be a huge indicator of what was overtaking us during this time. Or it would at least be indicative of something abnormal. Something we mustn’t forget about is the necessary waste that must be created in order to treat our fellow comrades. PPE must be completely disposable if it’s going to be completely sterile, and especially with an ailment so infectious.

I think many people will have hair in their garbage as well. It’s amazing to see how something that (I believe, anyway) was rooted in an online, viral trend could be seen in the archaeological record. The internet has a memory that’s very hard to wipe, but mother nature’s memory might be something even more fearsome.

Kurtzleben, Danielle. (2020 Apr 16). “Small Business Emergency Relief Program Hits $349 Billion Cap In Less Than 2 Weeks.” NPR, www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/04/16/835958069/small-business-emergency-relief-program-hits-349-billion-cap-in-less-than-2-week.

Joseph, George and Katherine Fung. (2020 Apr 17) “To Avoid Dumping Milk, New York Dairy Farmers Say They Need Help.” Gothamist, gothamist.com/food/avoid-dumping-milk-new-york-dairy-farmers-say-they-need-help.

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