I wrote the following response to the word GARBOLOGY which appeared in AWAD (A.Word. A. Day) in April 2006; my response was included in the April 30 Compendium (now there’s a word) of Feedback on the W ords in AWAD.
I’d never heard of garbology, but when I was researching my book, Backpacking
with Babies and Small Children (Wilderness Press, Berkeley, CA), I came
across the Garbage Project of the Bureau of Applied Research, Department
of Anthropology, University of Arizona. Beginning in the 1980s, these
researchers dug up landfills in different parts of the country. Up until
that time, no one had really studied what happens in landfills. Assumptions
were based on models that assumed that biodegradable materials would degrade
with time. The investigations showed that as the landfills aged and the
oxygen in the first two or three feet was used up, decomposition stopped.
At the bottom of the landfills, they found 40-year-old newspapers that were
still legible. Surprisingly to me, as a writer trying to discourage parents
from using disposable diapers, it was not the diapers that were filling up
the landfills–most of the intact material was newspapers.
More to come.