Acts of Salvage explores what the contemporary city compels us to cling to or discard.

Acts of Salvage is curated by Amy Lavender Harris, Geographer, Torontonian, dumpster diver and author of Imagining Toronto (Mansfield Press, 2010), which was shortlisted for the Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian literary criticism and won the 2011 Heritage Toronto Award of Merit.

alharris [at] gmail [dot] com.

Acts of Salvage on Metro Morning

Early on Friday 20 October, I spoke with CBC Radio One Metro Morning host Matt Galloway about dumpster diving, Acts of Salvage, taboos about waste and similar subjects.

Some highlights of our conversation:

– It is possible to find just about anything at curbside: furniture; books; bicycles; children’s toys; dishes; architectural salvage; metals, bottles and similar materials to sell as scrap or for recycling; clothing; even food. [I admitted I draw the line at food, and have to admit it’s unlikely I’d pick up clothing at curbside — although I’ve salvaged some wonderful fabric later used to reupholster salvaged furniture.]

– Taboos about waste have as much to do with purifying ontological categories (clean/dirty) as they do with the things we actually throw out. On the show I pointed out that we think of new clothing and supermarket food as clean, and yet some new clothing and carpeting off-gas known carcinogens, and food recalls are commonplace due to common contaminants we don’t even think to suspect.

– Through the things we throw out, it is possible to trace and even predict socio-economic shifts in a neighbourhood. The best neighbourhoods for scavenging, in my experience, are areas in transition, with solid homes whose long-term residents are starting to give way to new inhabitants. The transition produces quite a few interesting objects purged from basements, attics and garages.

Interested in hearing the whole thing? You can listen and/or download the podcast here.


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