Robin Nagle, anthropologist in residence at New York City’s Department of Sanitation, talks about trash not just as a visible problem but a cognitive problem:
[I]t’s cognitive in that exact way: that it is quite highly visible, and constant, and invisibilized. …. What is that mental process where we invisibilize something that’s present all the time?
The other cognitive problem is:
Why have we developed, or, rather, why have we found ourselves implicated in a system that not only generates so much trash, but relies upon the accelerating production of waste for its own perpetuation? Why is that OK?
And a third:
Every single thing you see is future trash. Everything. So we are surrounded by ephemera, but we can’t acknowledge that, because it’s kind of scary, because I think ultimately it points to our own temporariness, to thoughts that we’re all going to die.
Not surprisingly, our garbage is now lighter than it used to be, so by weight, we throw out half as much as we did in 1940. At least the future is half as heavy.