However, now with the aid of innovative technology developed by MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, modern artifacts are beginning to provide insightful information on the journey of a piece of trash through the “removal-chain.” TrashTrack uses hundreds of small, smart, location aware tags, which are part of a network of tiny locatable microeletromechanical systems currently under development. “These tags are attached to different types of trash so that these items can be followed through the city’s waste management system, revealing the final journey of our everyday objects in a series of real time visualizations.”
These kinds of data could have profound implications for how we think about the amount of waste we produce on a daily basis, as well as the distance and rate these objects travel over time. While this pilot program is designed for waste management purposes, the resulting data offer profound information for social scientists and certainly for future archaeologists. If someday all consumer products had similar microchips, one could locate the distribution and location of this garbage, which would be particularly important for environmentally degrading material culture, such as batteries, electronics, etc.
By cultivating a more informed population about the insights gained from this technology, perhaps our collective conscience will be more cognizant about our consumptive patterns of behavior. Perhaps now we will begin to confront the mounting question of where and when our trash is disposed of and how long it remains in the environment, before it is either destroyed or recycled. Nevertheless, a more informed public can only mean a more habitable future when we begin to address the impact we are leaving in the archaeological record.