Salvage – a term that, in English, was originally associated with the payment received ‘for saving a ship from wreck or capture’ – only came to describe the act of saving itself in the late 19th century with the dawn of the salvage corps. As cities grew, and the risk of large-scale property loss became more central, insurance underwriters found it profitable to establish fire salvage services to reduce losses. A later meaning, evolving during WWI, refers to the ‘recycling of waste material’: put explicitly, the combing of battlefields by the British Army’s Salvage Corps (a ghoulish double entendre), which re-purposed the parts and property of fallen machines and soldiers for continuing use in the war effort.
Ragpicker, or chiffonnier, is a term for someone who makes a living by rummaging through refuse in the streets to collect material for salvage. Scraps of cloth and paper could be turned into cardboard, broken glass could be melted down and reused, and even dead cats and dogs could be skinned to make clothes.
The ragpickers (rag and bone man) in 19th and early 20th Century did not recycle the materials themselves; they would simply collect whatever they could find and turn it over to a "master ragpicker" (usually a former ragpicker) who would, in turn, sell it—generally by weight—to wealthy investors with the means to convert the materials into something more profitable.
Although it was solely a job for the lowest of the working classes, ragpicking was considered an honest occupation, more on the level of street sweeper than of a beggar. In Paris, for instance, ragpickers were regulated by law: their operations were restricted to certain times of night, and they were required to return any unusually valuable items to the owner or to the authorities. When Eugène Poubelle introduced the garbage can in 1884, he was criticized in the French newspapers for meddling with the ragpickers' livelihoods. Modern sanitation and recycling programs ultimately caused the profession to decline, though it did not disappear entirely; rag and bone men were still operating in the 1970s.
Ragpicking is still widespread in Third World countries today, such as in Mumbai, India, where it offers the poorest in society around the rubbish and recycling areas a chance to earn a hand-to-mouth supply of money. In 2015, the Environment Minister of India declared a national award to recognise the service rendered by ragpickers. The award, with a cash prize of Rs. 1.5 lakh, is for three best rag pickers and three associations involved in innovation of best practices.
The practice of Karang guni is common in Singapore. Its practitioners are a modern form of rag and bone men that visit residences door-to-door. They can either walk along corridors (if that particular HDB estate has a covered carpark) or for certain HDB estates where the carpark is right under the HDB blocks, walk through the carpark downstairs honking a horn. However, around landed properties, they may drive around in a lorry with a horn attached to it, instead of going door-to-door. They make visits in carts, collecting old newspapers and other unwanted items. These will be resold at specialized markets and eventually recycled or reused. "Karang guni" is a Malay phrase for gunny sack, which was used in the past to hold the newspapers. The Karang guni men would haul the heavy sacks on their backs as they walked their rounds to do the collection. Today, most of them use a hand truck instead.
Dumpster diving (also totting, skipping, skip diving or skip salvage,) is salvaging from large commercial, residential, industrial and construction containers for unused items discarded by their owners, but deemed useful to the picker. It is not confined to dumpsters and skips specifically, and may cover standard household waste containers, curb sides, landfills or small dumps.
Different terms are used to refer to different forms of this activity. For picking materials from the curbside trash collection, expressions such as curb shopping, trash picking or street scavenging are sometimes used. When seeking primarily metal to be recycled, one is scrapping. When picking the leftover food from farming left in the fields one is gleaning.
People dumpster dive for items such as clothing, furniture, food, and similar items in good working condition. Some people do this out of necessity due to poverty, others for ideological reasons, while still others do so professionally and systematically for profit.
The Zabbaleen (Egyptian Arabic: زبالين Zabbalīn, IPA: [zæbbæˈliːn]) is a word which literally means "garbage people" in Egyptian Arabic. The contemporary use of the word in Egyptian Arabic is to mean "garbage collectors". In cultural contexts, the word refers to teenagers and adults who have served as Cairo's informal garbage collectors since approximately the 1940s. The Zabbaleen (singular: زبال Zabbāl, [zæbˈbæːl]) are also known as Zarraba (singular: Zarrab), which means "pig-pen operators." The word Zabbalīn came from the Egyptian Arabic word zebāla ([zeˈbæːlæ], زبالة) which means "garbage".
A rag-and-bone man or ragpicker (UK English) or ragman, old-clothesman, junkman, or junk dealer (US English), also called a bone-grubber, bone-picker, rag-gatherer, bag board, or totter, collects unwanted household items and sells them to merchants. Traditionally this was a task performed on foot, with the scavenged materials (which included rags, bones and various metals) kept in a small bag slung over the shoulder. Some rag-and-bone men used a cart, sometimes pulled by a horse or pony.
In the 19th century, rag-and-bone men typically lived in extreme poverty, surviving on the proceeds of what they collected each day. Conditions improved following the Second World War, but the trade declined during the latter half of the 20th century. However, in more recent years, partly as the result of the soaring price of scrap metal, rag-and-bone-style collection continues, particularly in the developing world.
Criando Retratos da Cidade - DEAL / Doughnut
How can our city be a home to
thriving people, in a thriving place,
whilst respecting the wellbeing of all people,
and the health of the whole planet?
When a city asks itself this very 21st century question, the result is a holistic snapshot of the city's performance across four crucial ‘lenses’ that arise from combining two domains (social and ecological) and two scales (local and global). Each of these interconnected lenses focuses on a part of the overarching question at the core of the City Portrait. Together, they combine local aspirations – to be thriving people in a thriving place – with global responsibility – both social and ecological – that requires every place to consider its many complex interconnections with the world in which it is embedded.
Urbantech Startup Playbook
Equally inspired by medieval bestiaries and observations of our damaged planet, A Bestiary of the Anthropocene is a compilation of hybrid creatures of our time. Designed as a field handbook, it aims at helping us observe, navigate, and orientate into the increasingly artificial fabric of the world.
Plastiglomerates, surveillance robot dogs, fordite, artificial grass, antenna trees, Sars-Covid-2, decapitated mountains, drone-fighting eagles, standardised bananas… each of these specimens are symptomatic of the rapidly transforming “post-natural” era we live in. Often without us even noticing them, these creatures exponentially spread and co-exist with us.
A Bestiary of the Anthropocene seeks to capture this precise moment when the biosphere and technosphere merge and mesh into one new hybrid body. What happens when technologies and their unintended consequences become so ubiquitous that it is difficult to define what is “natural” or not? What does it mean to live in a hybrid environment made of organic and synthetic matter? What new specimens are currently populating our planet at the beginning of the 21st century?
Of all the mysteries and injustices of the McDonald’s ice cream machine, the one that Jeremy O’Sullivan insists you understand first is its secret passcode.
Press the cone icon on the screen of the Taylor C602 digital ice cream machine, he explains, then tap the buttons that show a snowflake and a milkshake to set the digits on the screen to 5, then 2, then 3, then 1. After that precise series of no fewer than 16 button presses, a menu magically unlocks. Only with this cheat code can you access the machine’s vital signs: everything from the viscosity setting for its milk and sugar ingredients to the temperature of the glycol flowing through its heating element to the meanings of its many sphinxlike error messages.
“No one at McDonald’s or Taylor will explain why there’s a secret, undisclosed menu," O’Sullivan wrote in one of the first, cryptic text messages I received from him earlier this year.
As O’Sullivan says, this menu isn’t documented in any owner’s manual for the Taylor digital ice cream machines that are standard equipment in more than 13,000 McDonald’s restaurants across the US and tens of thousands more worldwide. And this opaque user-unfriendliness is far from the only problem with the machines, which have gained a reputation for being absurdly fickle and fragile. Thanks to a multitude of questionable engineering decisions, they’re so often out of order in McDonald’s restaurants around the world that they’ve become a full-blown social media meme. (Take a moment now to search Twitter for “broken McDonald’s ice cream machine” and witness thousands of voices crying out in despair.)
Finally how did Moscoso apply the metaphor of the actual city of Liverpool as a port with the human body? “Liverpool’s position as a port and hub of cross-cultural encounters, circulation, distribution and global transnational mobility – along with its difficult history of humans forcibly moved from Africa to the Americas and beyond – is central to the narrative of this edition. It is a bringing-together of the near and far with notions of movement and digestion; the stomach’s role within the body and the movement from inside to outside, on a global scale.”
Makery: What was your first impression when you entered the bowels of this processing plant?
Stefan Shankland: The sheer scale of everything. The orders of magnitude here are monumental, gargantuan, in terms of both spaces and quantities. More than 700,000 tons of waste are processed each year, 100 tons are incinerated each day. This waste is ours—mine accumulated with 1.5 million other residents’ waste. It makes you acutely aware of how much garbage we produce collectively without realizing it. Through this visual, physical, spatial experience, we enter the imagination and the representation of what we produce as a society, or even as humanity.
In your video pieces, the workers are barely represented, or else they are played by dancers who seem to be imitating machines. Are the workers invisible in this world of scrap metal?
This is another aspect that struck me during my first visits. You enter an enormous site that processes waste from 1.5 million residents, but you don’t see anyone. You might see three people working in an office, and there’s a series of trucks that come in, but nobody gets out of them. They dump the waste in the pit, and then they leave. You don’t run into any humans, it’s something very mechanical.
Occasionally you do meet workers, mostly men. But they have a difficult relationship with their professional image. When it comes to the popular image of their profession, there is a kind of shame associated with garbage. The workers don’t voluntarily expose themselves as working in a waste processing plant. We always respected their right to privacy.
Good to see you here in our Project Kamp Academy. This is the place where we share our developments and steps forward to setup Project Kamp. How to research, how to buy land, how to prototype etc. But before we go in depth, here a quick overview where we are currently at.
We want to try and reduce the footprint we leave on earth. However throughout the years we've noticed that, even if we really do our best to reduce it in daily life. We always leave a big footprint, because we're part of this system. The stores that get our food from around the world, the packaging it contains, the electricity that is extracted from the wrong source, the streets lights that are always on, our houses that are made of unrecyclable materials, even the commute to work everyday. Just participating in this system leaves a big footprint, specially living in the Western world. Its comfortable, but also wasteful. Time to try something else..
Mark Miodownik examines why electronic gadgets and household goods don’t last and are hard to repair and what’s being done to fix the problem.
Dare to Repair! A new law could help. From the summer manufacturers must make spare parts and instructions available for a range of electronic appliances. It's a law that aims to cut down on waste by making goods last longer
A data standard for reporting data about Household Waste Recycling Centres
Junkpunk, Scavenged Punk, Scrappunk
Evan Calder Williams
Salvagepunk (also known as Junkpunk or Scavenged Punk) is a stylized setting that focuses on technology and culture based on an unusual source: scavenged junk. Weapons, tools, clothing, and sometimes entire cities will be built out of repurposed/recycled materials. A key factor here is that said materials, often pieces of trash, are being used for something other than their original purpose (as opposed to simply being repaired and reused).