GONE TOMORROW, the Hidden Life of Garbage with Heather Rodgers

Oct ’05
12:00 am

Heather Rodgers author of GONE TOMORROW, the Hidden Life of GarbageWednesday Nov. 9th 7PM
The United States is the world capital of garbage; with just 5% of the planet?s population America generates 30% of the its trash. The average American creates a staggering 4.5 pounds of rubbish daily, but garbage is a global problem. Consider that the Pacific Ocean is now six times more abundant with plastic waste than zooplankton.
Everyone makes garbage. It?s there all the time, in the corner of our kitchens, in the bins next to our desks. But trash is also always in the process of disappearing?getting quickly, almost imperceptibly whisked out of sight. But where does it all go? And what is the impact of garbage on the planet?
In GONE TOMORROW journalist Heather Rogers addresses these questions by guiding us through the grisly, oddly fascinating underworld of trash. Excavating the history of rubbish handling from the 1800s?an era of garbage-grazing urban hogs and dump-dwelling rag pickers?to the present, with its brutally violent mob-controlled cartels and high-tech ?mega-fills? operated by multi-billion-dollar garbage corporations, Rogers investigates the roots of today?s waste-addicted culture.
Over the past 30 years, garbage output in the US has doubled. GONE TOMORROW explains that, despite popular wisdom, this explosion of rubbish is not the sole responsibility of the consumer. In fact, shoppers often have little choice in the wastes they generate. Consider packaging: tossed cans, bottles, boxes and wrappers now take up more than a third of all landfill space. More prolific today than ever before, packaging is garbage waiting to happen.
Once buried or burned, trash is hardly benign. Landfills, even the most state-of-the-art, are environmental time bombs. They spew greenhouse gases, and leach hazardous chemicals and heavy metals into groundwater and soil. Waste incinerators are no less disastrous. They emit 70% of the world?s dioxin, and pollute the air with toxic particulate matter and a host of gases that cause acid rain.
GONE TOMORROW also explores the politics of recycling, which is widely embraced?more Americans recycle than vote?but has serious limitations, and, as Rogers points out, should only be seen as a first step toward more fundamental solutions.
Part expos?, part social commentary, GONE TOMORROW traces the connection between modern industrial production, consumer culture, and our disposable lifestyle. Read it and you?ll never think of garbage the same way again.
Heather Rogers is a writer, journalist, and filmmaker. Her documentary film Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage (2002) screened in festivals around the globe. Her articles have appeared in Utne Reader, Z Magazine, the Brooklyn Rail, Bad Subjects, Punk Planet, Third Text, and Art and Design. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.