An object of our time, the polyethylene bag exists to convenience people, to help carry from point a to b. We look at bags from all sides trying to pull answers from its ethereal presence.
Friday, April 6, 2012
This American Life: Garbage
Episode 249: garbage is the theme, discussed through three personal accounts dealing with trash. This is helpful to understand that all interactions with trash are unique and that all people do not share one view of trash.
Every day each American produces 4.8 pounds of garbage. Where does it all go? Ira talks with Robin Nagle, a anthropology professor at New York University who's been studying garbage,and says that most of us want garbage to be invisible. Which, usually, it is. (4 minutes)
ACT ONE. OH, MR. SAN MAN.
The people who pick up our trash don't call themselves garbagemen. They're san men ("san" being short for "sanitation"). Host Ira Glass follows a couple of New York city san men around for a day (with NYU's Robin Nagle, who's writing about about the san men), to find out what 4.8 pounds of trash per person per day looks like from street level. (12 minutes)
ACT TWO. EXCEPT FOR THE SMELL, I THINK I HAVE A CRUSH ON YOU.
There are squatters who've built entire neighborhoods on top of rotting trash heaps in Mexico. They scavenge in the garbage piles for their living. Author Luis Urrea worked in one of these neighborhoods many years ago. He goes back to visit a friend who still lives there, in a small house with six teenage girls (three daughters, three nieces.) This is just fine with Luis's fourteen-year-old son, who goes with him. Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, including By the Lake of Sleeping Children: The Secret Life of the Mexican Border and Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border. His story was produced by Barbara Ferry, with help from Sandy Tolan, Alan Weisman and Deborah Begel. It's part of the series "Border Stories" from Homelands Productions, which gets funds from The Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (19 minutes)
ACT THREE. "I'M A LEGITIMATE BUSINESSMAN...WASTE MANAGEMENT."
We hear the secret recordings that ended mob control of New York garbage collection, and talk to Rick Cowan, the NYPD detective who went undercover for three years to make them. He wrote a book about the case, with co-author Douglas Century, called Takedown: The Fall of the Last Mafia Empire. (14 minutes)