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This is the fallout from pandemic-time food hoarding

A B.C. archeologist says garbology, otherwise known as the study of trash, can offer unique insights into how we live, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(Our trash) tells us that we're very wasteful. Often, we don't pay enough attention to what we really consume and throw away,” Bob Muckle, an archeologist and instructor of anthropology at Capilano University in B.C., told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.

Muckle and his colleagues have been studying COVID-19-related waste in the Vancouver area. Through their Twitter account @Covidarchaeology, they’ve been documenting everything from discarded masks to pandemic-inspired art in the city.

Muckle has also been involved in conducting annual waste audits at Capilano University, looking into the kind of trash that people throw away on campus, as well as the placement and signage regarding garbage receptacles.

“We look at a number of different things, but the most interesting to me is just what it tells us about human behaviour,” Muckle said.

When COVID-19 first hit, Muckle says it led to a surge in people ordering food for takeout and delivery, which in turn resulted in more plastic waste.

“We've certainly seen that in residential trash, especially as a lot of recycling programs stopped,” he said. “We're seeing a significant increase in packaging for food and all the deliveries we get from Amazon and others. An enormous amount of packaging is now entering the archeological record of 2022.”

Pandemic-induced panic buying at the grocery store also resulted in more households hoarding food, leading to more food waste, Muckle says.

“When there’s any kind of threat on food security… people will just go to Costco or wherever and overbuy and then three or four months down the road, they're going to toss all that stuff out,” he explained.

“We're very wasteful as a species, especially in North America, and it's only going to get worse.” Top Stories

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