collecting data on garbage mobility out of a personal citizen perspective
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The project TRACE WASTE aims to observe and visualize movements of our garbage to explore possible impacts on future urban life within the context of waste. We build an interactive audiovisual installation in order to distort the usual perception and make visible the hidden dynamics within our disposing culture. We want to trigger a wide discussion and understanding of challenges and problems concerning our present global era of trash. 


Globally, in human habitats we all share a routine: personal waste management. Waste production is part of our everyday lives and its scale is growing inexorably. As citizens we are obliged to bring our waste to containers that literally form “islands of waste” (“Müllinseln”), which directly translates into the shape of our installation. Usually, personal responsibility ends after dropping off waste at these “right” places. Out of sight and out of mind. 


Traces of our presence, waste traces, are providing us with information about (human) activity since thousands of years. Rubbish, whether from an ancient rubbish heaplike Monte dei Cocci or from a contemporary landfill, is a mirror of society. In and around urban contexts, in compressed space, traces of waste can be more visible than elsewhere. Landfills change whole landscapes, creating mountains of waste at the urban periphery. Freight transports of waste are happening on a global scale to keep the costs low and to keep waste out of sight and out of territory.  But this is only a matter of shifting and relocating the problem. The traces of human activity that were invisible for some time, are now more visible than ever and can no longer be denied and looked away from.



To raise awareness we conducted the following experiments: We monitored our waste (out of a citizen perspective) by placing geolocation trackers in it. Using novel IoT devices on a low power wide area network for our tracking tasks allowed us to collect data on a large scale. The project provides systemic knowledge not only of final resting locations of items, but also of transport durations, distances and emissions. We monitored different kinds of waste,  with a particular focus on textiles and plastic, to gain systematic knowledge not only about final resting locations of waste items, but also about transporting durations, distances and emissions. To also capture the dynamics within an urban environment, we monitored 10 waste collection trucks inside the municipality Rome, to get a tiny glimpse of urban garbage mobility. Materialising into an interactive audiovisual installation in the shape of a "island of waste", the artwork distorts the usual perception of disposing culture and visualises its hidden dynamics, triggering a wide discussion and understanding of the challenges and problems concerning the current global era of trash. The soundscape uses electromagnetic emissions and recordings of garbage trucks. Our installation allows the interested public to explore all the data gathered in an interactive way.  The overarching question remains: How to pave the way to “resilient waste mobility”?



The visualization of traces of rubbish, should create a long term societal effect and make people more aware of present challenges by interacting and engaging hands-on with the topic in a low-barrier way as citizens.





Please contact us to request collected data and code.

With a solid data set it would be also possible to make the system more efficient and identify bottlenecks. In any case we are creating knowledge that serves as evidence for discussion.

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Susi Gutsche concept
Dimitrije Andrijevic design
Sebastian Scholz sound design
Max Pellert coding



The project is realized in the framing of the S+T+ARTS fellowship program Repairing the Present, Challenge Nr. 3 BIG DATA AND THE CITY

The Fellowship Repairing the Present is co-funded by the S+T+ARTS program of the European Union and co-comissioned by SONY CSL (Vittorio Loreto, Alessandro Londei, Bernardo Monechi and Matteo Bruno) and developed with the support of MAXXI - National Museum of 21st Century Art (Chiara Bertini, Alessio Rosati). Funded by European Union´s S+T+ARTS Initiative.

Technology Partner:

Paul Pinault (IngeniousThings)


Armando Montanari, Florian Matzka, GOJER, HEB Hagen, AWV Lavanttal, AMA Roma

Project documentation by Alessandro Marini



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