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Garbage is both obvious and difficult to define. We know it when we see it, but how is it different from other objects? The technical definition of garbage is “the offal of an animal used for food,” but it has also come to mean refuse in general. A more practical meaning would be that anything that has lost its usefulness and/or value is garbage. In this way, we also speak of garbage (and its siblings trash and rubbish) metaphorically—“Did you hear the garbage that candidate was saying,” “Those basketball players were really trash-talking in the final game,” “That book is pure rubbish.” It would seem, then, that garbage is all around us. Despite its ubiquity, however, many aspects of garbage are poorly understood. The quantity ...

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