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The Waste of Time

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)

Forthcoming
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Abstract

In this chapter, we use archaeology to introduce a new dimension to perceptions of waste that draws also from soil science and environmental engineering. We start by connecting our view with generally accepted concepts of waste. We then expand on our perspective and discuss potential implications for the disciplinary imperatives of both archaeology and soil science, and for common assumptions about dirt and soil. Finally, we present the interim results of experimentation with a model, known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) (European Commission 2010; European Environment Agency 1998; Finnveden et al. 2009; ISO 2006a, 2006b). LCA is a tool employed in modern assessments of potential environmental impact, from bio- and renewable energy (e.g., Cherubini and Strømman 2011; Pehnt 2006; Sander and Murthy 2010) to construction (Vilches et al. 2017) to landfill (Nielson and Hauschild 1998, 158). In our case, the archaeological site, along with its dark soils and vegetation, represents the end-result or impact, and our interest is in reconstructing what led to the impact. Our initial aim is to use the data recovered on the origins and constituents of past deposits to understand the processes of site formation, because the “site” as we know it today is defined by the impact of past discard behaviours. Our ultimate goal is to be able to contribute to the management of modern buried waste as well as the management of human burial by contextualising decay processes in “archaeological” or long-term timeframes. Internalising the significance of this long-term context will require changes in social and cultural attitudes. In addition, taking such changes on board highlights the fact that the management of waste is an ecological problem rather than simply a soil or engineering one.