A Year’s Worth of Trash at the Museum of Trash

It’s not everyday that a guy like me has something of his installed in a museum. It’s an even rarer occasion when a guy like me has a year’s worth of his trash installed in a museum. But come Saturday, that’s exactly what will be happening at The Museum of Trash in Hartford, Ct.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, last year, I undertook a project called 365 Days of Trash. For one entire year (as the name of the project would suggest) I decided that instead of throwing things “away” I would keep it all in my basement and see what happened. I figured that by not being able to have everything disappear from the curb each week, and having a finite place to store it all (my basement is a wee little place), I’d have to start making some hard choices about what I was using, buying, and discarding.

By the end of the year, I had accumulated only 28.5 pounds of trash. While I probably started with a smaller waste footprint than most (the average American generates 1600 pounds a year) I was impressed by how a little knowledge went such a long way. Imagine if everyone were forced to deal with their own waste rather than having it disappear from the curb each week!

Around September ’08 I realized that I needed to start thinking about the end of the year and what I would do with everything. It seemed a shame to toss it all as I had learned so much from this small pile of trash (yes, I’m waxing nostalgic about garbage). Yet at the same time, I really didn’t need it anymore. Since I composted all my food scraps and washed everything in the sink with the leftover dishwater, there wasn’t really a rush, but still, it seemed that a more noble end than the curb was in order.

Enter the CRRA Museum of Trash. I’m originally from Connecticut and while I was visiting in August of 2008, my nephew mentioned I should check out the museum seeing as I had become a bit of a trash hoarder myself. A museum devoted to trash? I was intrigued.

I called in and oddly enough, they had heard of me and had even passed around a few of my videos. Strange place the trash world is. I headed on down there and found a truly unique, cool, and highly educational museum. It’s designed with students in mind but is intended for adults as well.

When you first enter you are confronted with the Temple of Trash, a large structure that you walk through made of items that were pulled on their way to the landfill. It’s quite an eye opener. Other exhibits include a worm composting area (a personal favorite of mine) an explanation of the recycling process with visuals of what gets recycled and how, a cool wall illustration on the history of trash by artist Ted Esselstyn, and a hands on area where kids can re-use items and turn them into art. And that’s just a few of the things they have!

The highlight of the museum for me though is the view from upstairs into the single stream processing plant where trucks dump off recyclables and they are sorted according to type. Digital cameras allow you to zoom in on the action and watch as bursts of air, magnets, and a host of other techniques, separate the different materials from one another. The last time I was there, my Dad and I stood watching the trucks come in one after the other. It was his first time in such a facility and after a few minutes he looked at me and said “I had no idea there was so much of it.” And that’s exactly the point the museum makes so well. Most of us have no idea and need to be educated.

While I was there, the folks who run the museum asked me what my plans were for the end of the year. When I confided in them that I hadn’t thought that far ahead, they asked if I’d be interested in donating my trash as a permanent exhibit.

So come Saturday, the Sustainable Dave exhibit will officially open complete with a trunk that holds all of my trash, a wall of videos, and some cool artwork done by Ted Esselstyn. It’s really quite amazing that the stuff will (hopefully) continue to educate others on how to waste less and I’m forever in the museums debt for offering this great opportunity. and for taking my trash off my hands as well.

If you are around Saturday, check them out between 10 and 2, as they have a few other things going on as well, and if not, try and stop by at some other point, you’ll be glad you did. Also, if you stop by their facebook page and become a fan (come on, how could you not be a fan), that’d be great as well. The more the merrier!

Save your trash and become a permanent museum installation. Who would have thought huh?




Claudia L.
Claudia L.9 years ago

Not a museum i'd want to visit but interesting idea!

Mervi R.
Mervi R9 years ago

The Trash Museum, what a good and interesting idea. Maybe bringing people face to face with amount of trash they produce will make them think more about ways of reducing it.

Sue Cannon
Sue Cannon9 years ago

well done on sticking to doing your year of trash project. good to see its been recognised in this amazing museum and with the news article that looks to be going into the subject more in following days. People will learn such a lot from that newsclip.

Monica D.
Monica D9 years ago

Good article. It would be great to get a lot more people and businesses recycling!

I wonder whether the 1600 pounds per year includes waste generated by businesses? I have read somewhere that construction waste is a big component of total waste going to landfill. I'd like to see that addressed, as well as aluminium cans, glass bottles etc.

Vicki Anderson
Vicki Anderson9 years ago

I think if most people were asked to store their trash for just a month, they'd change their habits pretty quickly. Maybe we should campaign for less frequent trash collection.

Leia P.
Leia P.9 years ago

this looks interesting

Elizabeth Hope
Lillibet H9 years ago

Great article, thanks. I'm now gonna check out your links :-)

William Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare9 years ago

now, thats sumwhere i dont wanna go

Trash M.
Trash M.9 years ago

The Trash Museum (http://www.crra.org/pages/Trash_Museum.htm) is delighted to be associated with Sustainable Dave! And check out our sister facility, the Garbage Museum (http://www.crra.org/pages/Garbage_Museum.htm).

Sustainable Dave
Dave Chameides9 years ago

Hey Carol,
28.5 is only the trash. I saved recycling as well, but that's a different category. As for junk mail, I've all but eradicated that (how to on my site www.365daysoftrash.com, right hand side up top), and what little I got went to the worms.