Craft By Zen

Garbage In Garbage Out

Science Hack Day SF 2017 Project


What happens to your city’s trash? Depending on where you live, a surprising amount of it gets shipped to other cities in the USA. In fact, according to the 2012 commodity flow survey taken by the US government, 114 million tons of waste and scrap are shipped per year. And that’s not even counting the trash that gets carried from your house to your local waste facility with garbage trucks. This survey only looked at intentional large scale waste transportation.

Why are we shipping trash such long distances, for example from Albany to Houston? There are two main reasons:

Some shipments include hazardous waste which needs to be disposed of safely. Some shipments include useful scrap, for example wood pulp. These large shipments aren’t free: companies are paying to dispose of their waste properly or they are buying useful waste they need for their businesses.

Explore the data by looking at inflows and outflows. Find your city and see where your trash is going.

This was a hackathon project for Science Hack Day San Francisco in 2017. If you’re excited by this data, fork the github repo and let us know what you create!


Here’s the static visualization from Circos. Circos Raw Data.

You can check out the website for the interactive visualization.

map with data overlayed of trash inflows and outflows given city


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