Document Type


Publication Date



materiality, politics of value, rubbish, scavenging, waste, technologies


This article discusses scavenging and dumping as alternative approaches to deriving value from rubbish at a large Michigan landfill. Both practices are attuned to the indeterminacy and power of abandoned things, but in different ways. Whereas scavenging relies on acquiring familiarity with an object by getting to know its particular qualities, landfilling and other forms of mass disposal make discards fungible and manipulable by stripping them of their former identities. By way of examining the different ways in which people become invested in the politics of value at the landfill, whether as part of expressions of gender and class or for personal enjoyment, different comportments toward materiality are revealed to have underlying social and moral implications. In particular, it is argued that different approaches to the evaluation of rubbish involve competing understandings of human and material potential.

Publisher Attribution

Reno, J. (2009). Your Trash Is Someone's Treasure The Politics of Value at a Michigan Landfill. Journal of Material Culture, 14(1), 29-46.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.