Waste360 is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

‘Garbologist’ Rathje Dies; Studied Waste for Cultural Clues

Article-‘Garbologist’ Rathje Dies; Studied Waste for Cultural Clues

William Rathje, a professor who through his extensive anthropological study of waste came to be known as a “garbologist,” died May 24 of natural causes. He was 66.

In 1973 Rathje, an anthropology professor, developed the Garbage Project to learn about the connection between what people threw away and their culture. He had studied Maya culture and realized most of what was excavated was their trash, according to the University of Arizona website. He and his students developed a methodology to examine contemporary waste using archaeological principles. Rathje’s work came to be called “garbology.”

In 1987 Rathje turned to landfills in Arizona and across the United States, and by digging up and examining waste in landfills he disproved what many assumed at the time about the composition of the American waste stream.

In 1992 he collaborated with Cullen Murphy on a book, “Rubbish! The Archaeology of Landfills.” 

He passed away at his home in Tuscon.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.