Garbage Matters: A Comparative History of Waste in East Asia
As archaeologists have repeatedly confirmed, garbage is among humanity’s most prodigious of physical legacies, a valuable source for the study of the past. Separating the unwanted from the desirable and getting rid of waste are part of the central routines of everyday life in every civilization. During the last half century, this obscured aspect of human existence has become increasingly conspicuous.
Under the alarmist rhetoric of environmentalists, the dramatically expanding volume of garbage has become a truly global problem, reaching far beyond the first-world economies of Europe and North America with their long-established consumer markets. As the standard of living in East Asia rises, so does the volume of garbage generated by the new generations of consumers in the region.
The overall aim of this project is to examine waste as a social phenomenon in contemporary East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan), and to explore the historical shifts behind the transformation of practices related to the ‘production’ and disposal of garbage since the Second World War.