One person’s trash is another’s…archaeology?

Last week, we got to dig through some trash! My group chose two trash bags from Denny Hall, counting and describing all of the contents. I was particularly struck by the amount of recyclables and compostables in the trash can.

Having interned for the UW’s Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Office (, I knew that Denny Hall’s waste diversion rates are a particularly special case, because the building was used last year for a pilot program to lower waste miscategorization. Based on our findings, I’m not so sure it worked. See Kirks garbology post for a breakdown of our findings.

I think our mini-garbology project highlights this really exciting and socially relevant subfield of archaeology. The UW’s Garbology Program ( is one of the emerging leaders in the field. One of the really exciting things about garbology is that instead of borrowing data and methods from other academic fields, garbology actually gives archaeology a chance to actively contribute to the larger academic and social discourse. I can’t count how many times I’ve thought to myself “Yeah, archaeology is fascinating, but so what? It doesn’t matter to society.” But garbology does!

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