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Tools for understanding waste

This is a page dedicated towards the development and exploration of Public Lab tools to help understand the world of waste. Ideas range from landfill monitoring and mapping landfills to developing a trash can with built-in scale and household composting bin.

Notes Grid

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
Solid Waste Facilities in California @herk almost 3 years ago 2
SoCal Waste Stream Mapping at Learn Beyond the Book in Santa Clarita @sarasage over 3 years ago 0
How does bio-waste move within the waste stream? @sarasage over 3 years ago 0
Aerial mapping a reclaimed landfill @cfastie over 3 years ago 0
The open burning of textile waste @shanlter about 4 years ago 3
Mapping (in)formal and formal recycling sites and flows: Nicaragua to Boston @mollydanielsson over 5 years ago 2
Phragmites Landfill Invasion @nicholas over 5 years ago 8
Another example: using free SFM tools to model Saugus Inc. Ash Landfill @patcoyle almost 6 years ago 2
Estimating Volume and Weight of Petroleum Waste Piles in Southeast Chicago @holden almost 6 years ago 8
Methods of Estimating the Volume and Weight of Waste Piles through Balloon Mapping @sara about 6 years ago 5
(Attempted) Kite Mapping at Dead Horse Bay @Bronwen over 6 years ago 1
Post-ITP Camp Aerial Mapping @ Fresh Kills, Pre-Aerial Mapping with High School Kids! @christinameilene over 6 years ago 0
Saugus landfill overflight photos -- with Infragram @warren over 6 years ago 1
ITP Camp @ Fresh Kills @nicholas over 6 years ago 0
Help requested with mapknitter- Balloon mapping of Metal processing plant in Providence, RI @Lynnrw almost 7 years ago 4
Fresh Kills Balloon Mapping @nicholas almost 7 years ago 2
'Detritivore' Design: How to Use Trash to Create Scalable Tech Solutions @mathew almost 7 years ago 0
Kite Mapping in Central America - Waste and Recycling @eblaine almost 7 years ago 1
Progress on NRG compositing from MapKnitter @warren about 8 years ago 0
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Activity Grid

Add an activity  or request an activity guide you don't see listed

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Wifi Enabled Trashcan Scale (concept)

This trashcan has a builtin scale which automatically logs it's daily weight online wirelessly. This joins the group 'internet of things' but could help keep track of exactly how much trash an individual or household produces. Could also be implemented into workplaces.

Steps to build: 1) Hack digital scale to add wifi capabilities. 2) Design method in which a trash can is placed on top

*tracking daily waste numbers across communities could be tremendously useful in understanding more precisely how much municipal solid waste is produced annually.

Landfill Monitoring Kit

This kit will include items needed to take a small soil sample in order to test for various toxins, metals, etc... A water monitoring kit - for nearby waterways to test for contaminates in the water. (These are just suggestions for monitoring landfills. I actually have no idea what would be useful)

Landfill Methane Mapping

Methane Balloons? - Landfills are a leading source in methane emissions across the country. Could we attach lowcost methane sensors to balloons and "Methane Map" landfills?

Landfill Identification and Tracking

The Environmental Protection Agency has a database containing data about all of the landfills in the country. It would enlightening to gather citizen stories and documentation of each of these landfills aside from the EPA database. This initial map was created to use the EPA database to locate all of the landfill in the country on one map. Users can then identify nearby landfills and see, via google maps, what the landfill is like from above. Expanding this map to include citizen gathered data on each landfill individually help formulate a better understanding of landfills around the country.

Current example

Home Composting Kit

I'm sure everybody and their brother has thought about this, but when I try and find something online, nothing exists. The home composting kit would be everything you need to easily compost at home. I imagine the kit to be similar to a trash can, but with many various levels to allow for the various steps in composting. - To be totally honest, I only have a basic understanding of how to compost but I fully believe there must be a simple way (via a product) to help people with in-house composting. -

Maybe something like this. Useful scientific research

Wall-E Robot to collect waste

This is all about making a Wall-e stye robot to collect and process waste. This is interesting in both bringing the character to life which represents the 'solution' to our increasingly growing waste stream as well as actually making a robot that could collect waste more efficiently. I also see potential for creating a mascot for waste as well as an opportunity to push the waste conversation forward.

Next steps: Design a diagram of what this robot would do. Ideas: simple moving trash can, add environmental sensors, focus on one item (organics or aluminum can crusher), maybe it is a mini waste to energy robot to power your home? etc...

Tracking Boston's municipal solid waste

(from Claire):

EPA Database of landfill locations

Includes a record of historical/current violations of environmental policy:

Landfill Club

Project from EcoHack 2014. has more data about landfills in MA. Note: This doesn't show historic landfills:

Massachusetts' closed landfills

Page with info on Mass's closed landfills that might be helpful for you:


A small study of waste places in Cambridge: It was part of the exhibition at MIT: from Basurama. Map can be found here:

Find a Landfill Near You (in progress)

This is something made by Nick Johnson with data from the EPA. It includes landfills as well as any facility licensed to handle msw. The idea here to was to find a landfill near you.

MIT's Senseable City Lab TrashTrack

Their project tracks where trash actually goes using GPS-enabled tools. This seems related to but potentially separate from identifying where the landfills are. Might be an interesting peripheral study. Also, there are some interesting data visualizations of specific trash items here:

Crowdcrafting project to identify landfills from satellite images

Open Trash Lab