National News

California Man Saves Year's-Worth of Trash

Posted December 30, 2007
Updated January 1, 2008

— Ari Derfel leads a trashy life. He just wants to remind everyone else that they do, too.

The 35-year-old Berkeley caterer said he has saved every piece of trash he has generated over the past year to see how much garbage one person creates. In his case, it was about 96 cubic feet.

The experiment began as a way to examine his own consumption habits, Derfel said, but grew into a statement about consumerism and the environment.

"When we throw something away, what does 'away' mean?" Derfel said. "There's no such thing as 'away.'"

The refuse - including every tissue, receipt, food wrapper and plastic bottle - lies in bins in the kitchen and living room of Derfel's apartment. He composts his food scraps.

Derfel said he eventually hopes to donate his accumulated waste to a sculptor.


On the Web:

Ari Derfel's blog:


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  • whocares Dec 31, 2007

    People think he is a nut case. I don't. People would be amazed at how much junk gets put into landfills. People trow away electronics, matresses, appliances. If these things work or are in good shape, give them to the homeless shelter or someone who could use them.

  • Myrrdin Dec 31, 2007

    "The refuse - including every tissue"

    I hope they were referring to facial tissue.

  • oceanchild71 Dec 31, 2007

    When I drive around my neighborhood on trash pick-up day, I am astounded at the number of people who either don't use their recycling bin (town-provided) or it appears they have few recyclables. For a family of 4 with 2 children 5 and under we fill up 2 recycling bins just about every week. However, for a normal week, we may have only 2 or three trash bags filled and I see many other people with trash cans overflowing week after week. We compost as much as we can and we try to donate items that are no longer needed/wanted that are in good condition rather than just throw them away.

    It is amazing how much trash we generate and so much of it is just packaging of the products we buy!

  • wralgolo Dec 31, 2007

    There's nothing weird with that. If we're a little conscious, we'd realize we throw out lotsa trash. Think about it, if you're out of town for a week, your mailbox would be full with mostly junk (e.g advertisements). Either we throw them in the trash or in the recycle bin. We know it's a lot every week. But we may not be able to quantify it. All this guy did was to attempt to quantify (relatively) the amount of trash we're throwing away in a year.

    And for those of us who are quick to assume it's not sanitary, you might be a little judgemental there.

    Happy New Year all.

  • kitelover110 Dec 31, 2007

    Through recycling and composting, I have managed to reduce my trash that goes to the landfill to approximaltly one garbage bag per month. I think that this is a lot less that what he generated.

  • Leonardo Dec 31, 2007

    Better to criticize the messenger than try to refute the message.

  • Leonardo Dec 31, 2007

    I suspect the reason why people are criticizing him on this message board is because they don't like to be reminded of just how wasteful they are.

  • taylor boy Dec 31, 2007

    This the true meaning of the word "Trashman"...but he has a valid point. The worlds trash creation is a mess, and its one of those things that we like to keep out of mind, since its so easy to see that truck take our stuff "away". What are we gonna do?

  • Sopranos Justice Dec 31, 2007

    He needs to change his name to Oscar (from Sesame Street)

  • DontBelieveTheHype Dec 31, 2007

    Does he have 100 goats in the house, too?