How an Ink Cartridge Trashed in Seattle Ended Up in Mexico

A group of MIT scientists chronicles the long, sad journey of our waste

Image
Reuters

In August 2009, a team of researchers from the SENSEable City Lab in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning embarked on a major project to track the journey of 3,000 items of waste as they moved through Seattle’s disposal system. The goal of the project, called Trash Track, was to monitor the patterns and costs of urban disposal and to help create awareness of the impact of trash on the environment.

The results are both amazing and staggering to see and contemplate. Watch this 2-minute video to see how an ink cartridge and cell phone discarded in Seattle, for example, end up in Mexico and south Florida:

For more about Trash Track, which won an international award for visualization, start here.

This post originally appeared on the NRDC's Switchboard blog. Photo credit: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

About the Author

  • Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. More
    Kaid Benfield is the director of the Sustainable Communities and Smart Growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, co-founder of the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system, and co-founder of Smart Growth America. He is the author or co-author of Once There Were Greenfields (NRDC 1999), Solving Sprawl (Island Press 2001), Smart Growth In a Changing World (APA Planners Press 2007), and Green Community (APA Planners Press 2009). In 2009, Kaid was voted one of the "top urban thinkers" on Planetizen.com, and he was named one of "the most influential people in sustainable planning and development" in 2010 by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. He blogs at NRDC's Switchboard.