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The study of garbage , through either archaeological excavation of landfills or analysis of fresh garbage, to determine what the composition of municipal solid waste says about the society that generated it. The term is associated with the Garbage Project of the University of Arizona (Tucson), co-directed by William Rathje and Wilson Hughes, which began studying trash in 1973 and excavating landfills in 1987. They found that little degradation occurs in landfills; New York newspapers from 1949 and an ear of corn discarded in 1971 were found intact. Unexpectedly, the project also found that plastics make up less than one percent of the total volume of landfills.

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