August 16, 2012

Image of the Week: The Science of Garbage (Infographic)

by Christine Hoekenga

World o fWaste Infographic

Different countries produce different types of waste. An inforgraphic included in the August 10th edition of the journal Science compares data about waste from around the world.  G. Grullón/Science

When we think of garbage, we tend to think of municipal waste–the trash (and recycling) that comes out of our homes and businesses.  But there’s a whole lot more to the waste stream than just what we set out on the curb.  The August 10th special issue of the journal Science, “Working with Waste,” looks at both municipal waste and aspects of waste stream we tend not to think about, like leftovers from agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and sanitary (sewage) systems.

Our image of the week gives a tiny taste of one of the many resources included in the special section: a four-page infographic that visualizes and compares data about garbage from around the world.  This image shows a comparison of the types of municipal solid waste thrown away in France and the United States from 1980 to 2005. View the full infographic, or download a pdf.

While some of the scientific papers in the section require a subscription, many of the other resources (like the infographic) are available free for the next month:

  • Listen to the “trashcast” covering Grabology 101; the challenges of recycling rare and precious metals from consumer products; and getting over “the yuck factor,” a purely psychological barrier to handing human waste efficiently
  • Watch a video about efforts to invent a “Toilet 2.0” that more efficiently deals with human waste

For more about visualizing scientific data, see our module “Data: Using Graphs and Visual Data.”

Christine Hoekenga

Written by

Christine is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist, specializing in science and nature. She holds an Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Media Studies and a Master's of Science Writing. She has been working in science communication and education for nearly a decade as a journalist, an organizer for conservation groups, and a museum educator. Before joining the Visionlearning team, she served as the New Media and Online Community Manager for the Webby award-winning Smithsonian Ocean Portal. Christine is assisting Visionlearning with developing new modules and glossary terms, managing the blog, and outreach through social media.