I strongly believe that sanitation workers are the most important labor force on the streets of the city, for three reasons. They are the first guardians of public health. ... The economy needs them. If we can't throw out the old stuff, we have no room for the new stuff, so then the engines of the economy start to sputter when consumption is compromised. ... And then there's what I call our average, necessary quotidian velocity. By that I simply mean how fast we're used to moving in the contemporary day and age. We usually don't care for, repair, clean, carry around our coffee cup, our shopping bag, our bottle of water. We use them, we throw them out, we forget about them, because we know there's a workforce on the other side that's going to take it all away.Interview: C-Span Q&A.
BRIAN LAMB: Robin Nagle, why did you want to drive a garbage truck?Interview: Mother Jones
NAGLE: ...I realized I couldn’t understand the job to the depth I wanted until I was qualified to in fact, do the job. So I was hired, went through all the steps and the first time I drove that truck by myself, I have to say it was terrifying and exhilarating. I was in one of the most powerful vehicles on the road, not the biggest truck but I was the one nobody wanted to be stuck behind or get next to and I liked it a lot.
When you put out your garbage--and of course I'm using the generic "you"--you are not the last person who will have to deal with it. When you have, let's say, a piece of broken glass, or something really jagged, or you're doing a renovation and you're putting out wood that's got nails blooming out from one tip of it, or any kind of hazard you know handling requires great care, think about how to perhaps add a few layers of buffer packaging, sandwiching, anything diminishing the hazard a little bit.Interview, Scientific American: Trash Is Her Treasure: A Profile of a Sanitation Anthropologist
What are some surprising things you’ve learned by analyzing garbage? In affluent neighborhoods, I was profoundly impressed with how much good stuff rich people throw away.A review of Nagle's book, "Picking Up," from the NYT:
But the mission of Nagle’s new book, “Picking Up,” isn’t just to make us take note of sanitation workers (“san men,” not “garbagemen,” please). She also argues something larger: They are New York’s Most Essential. “Sanitation,” she writes, “is the most important uniformed force on the street.”From the Resources section of Discard Studies: Films & AV Media
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