︎ Title:

Trash Trailer


America generates more waste every year, growing from a 247 million tons of non-hazardous waste in 1990, to 409 million tons in 2001, according to Biocycle magazine, an industry publication.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the total cost of municipal waste disposal is $100 per ton. Therefore, the cost of ‘municipal’ waste disposal in the U.S. could be $23.8 billion. This figure does not include the associated financial costs of lost resources or the costs of landfills and incinerators on public health and the environment.

In 1978, there were approximately 20,000 landfills. By 1988, that number had dropped to 5,499. Currently the figure stands at 3,091. The EPA estimates that by the year 2008, only 1,234 landfills will be available. (Source: EPA and Mark Mardon, Earth Island Institute)

"In the United States, we generated approximately 220 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 1998--an increase of 4 million tons from 1997. The recovery rate for recycling (including composting) continued to grow, but at a slower rate. In 1998, the nation’s overall recycling rate was 28.2 percent. This is up 0.8 percent from the previous year.

In 1960, per capita generation was 2.7 pounds per person while total waste generation was 88.1 million tons.

In 1980 per capita generation rose to 3.7 pounds per day while total waste generation was 121 million tons.

In 2000, the per capita generation of waste was 4.5 pounds per person per data, total waste generation was 232 million tons

According to the Office of Technology Assessment,  the U.S. economy is among the most material intensive economies in the world, extracting more than 10 tons (20,000 pounds) of food, fuel, forestry products, metals and nonmetallic ores per person from U.S. territories each year. Over 90 percent of these resources become waste (municipal and industrial) within a few months of being extracted

The United States leads the world in municipal waste production. The waste volume is growing faster than the U.S. population. The average American consumes 17 times more than the average citizen of Mexico and hundreds of times more than an average Ethiopian.

Building-related construction and demolition (C&D) debris totals approximately 136 million tons per year, accounting for nearly 60 percent of total non-industrial waste generation in the U.S. (1996).24, 25

• Approximately 43 percent of C&D debris is generated from residential sources, and 57 percent from non-residential sources (1996).26
• Sources of the building-related C&D debris wastestream include demolition (accounting for approximately 48 percent of the waste stream per year), renovation (44 percent), and new construction (8 percent) (1996).27
• An estimated 20 to 30 percent of building-related C&D debris is recovered for processing and recycling (1996). The materials most frequently recovered and recycled were concrete, asphalt, metals, and wood.28

U.S. Construction market in 2001 (includes all commercial, residential, industrial)

Represents 20% of U.S. economy.

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National science and      Technology Council: Construction Industry Statistics, 1995


Buildings represent 39% of U.S. primary energy use (includes fuel input for production)

Source: 2003 U.S. DOE Buildings Energy Databook.

Buildings represent 70% of U.S consumption

Source: 2003 U.S. DOE Buildings Energy Databook                    
Water use:

Buildings use 12.2% of all potable water, or 15 trillion gallons per year

Source: U.S. Geological Service, 1995 data.

Less than 3% of the world's water is safe to drink.

85% of all landscape problems are directly related to over watering.  A properly designed and operated irrigation system can reduce water use by 20% or more each year.

Materials use:

Buildings use 40% of raw materials globally (3 billion tons annually)

Source:  Lenssen and Roodman, 1995, “Worldwatch Paper 124: A Building Revolution: How Ecology and Health Concerns are Transforming Construction,” Worldwatch Institute.


The EPA estimates that 136 million tons of building-related construction and demolition (C&D) debris was generated in the U.S. in a single year

Source: http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/debris/about.htm, and U.S. EPA Characterization of Construction and Demolition Debris in the United States, 1997 Update.

Compare that to 209.7 million tons of municipal solid waste generated in the same year.  Source: U.S. EPA Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in the United States, 1997 Update. Report No. EPA530-R-98-007

In 2006, 380 thousand tons of coal was consumed in the United State for energy generation.  For use in commercial buildings, 3837 thousand tons of coal was consumed.  In industrial buildings, 83,504 thousand tons of coal was consumed.

Source:  Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy, updated May 27, 2007

More than 116 million residential buildings existed in 2000.  More than 1.8 million residences are built annually.  Nearly 4.7 million office buildings existed in 1999. Every year, approximately 170,000 commercial buildings are constructed and nearly 44,000 commercial buildings are demolished.

Source:  2002 Economic Census, US Department of Commerce

In 2006, over 172,000 new Energy Star qualified homes were built nationwide – this accounted for more than 12% of all new site-built, single family homes permitted.

There are 7,600 USGBC members in the United States.  By 2006, there were 2,969 and 642 million square feet of LEED certified buildings.  

Americans spend over $30 billion a year to manage the disposal of a single year's eight billion tons of waste.

The history of the commercial waste compactor and the baler both stem from similar origins to many other inventions:

Baler History

When hay and straw were first harvested, they were stacked by hand in tidy piles on the field. As the demand for these materials increased, better methods developed in order to transport and store them. Before a machine could do it on its own, people used a hand tool with a handle and ratchet. The baler was originally made by Allis Chalmers in 1947 as a tool for farmers. It compacted hay and straw in rounded bales. The bales were then tied with twine or wire. This made it much easier to transport and store the bales. Soon enough, the baler was modified to create square or rectangular bales because they could hold more mass and were easier to stack and store. Today, balers are not just used for hay and straw, but for waste as well. They perform the same duties, but for a different industry.

Compactor History

The compactor has always been used with hydraulics, since 1941, when MS Wells patented the first commercial model. The hydraulics relied first on water, but were eventually modified to use electricity. Before the compactor was invented, trash and recyclables were often mixed together, and it required multiple trips to load and unload them from industrial facilities.

Once the compactor was created, companies were able to divide their recyclables from their trash and reduce the number of loads it took to remove all of their waste and recyclable material. In fact, some compactors are “portable” and can sometimes compact and store the waste.



Year:    In Process

Team:    University of Oklahoma College of Architecture

The Trash Trailer, affectionately named by the students at the University of Oklahoma who helped conceive and build this work, is a product of both world events and a deep desire to understand destruction and a positive means of growth.

The TT is a bail and block building system designed for clean up and shelter applications. Bails of paper, plastic and cloth waste are cut to shapes that from walls, buttresses, and a unique form of flat arch for a full trash enclosure that can be utilized as storage or shelter space.

Stage one of the TT project included the collection and sorting of paper, wood, plastic and cloth waste products. Organization of products collected was done by insulation value, color, weight, density, transparency, and material. The products were then stacked in a large bin created for initial organization of 4ft x 4ft blocks that would be one foot in thickness. Pegboard was used as the base layer giving the overall dimension and end caps. This material was collected from a local hobby store by the project team at the beginning of the prototype process. Stacking was carefully performed by the project team to create striations that included set values of insulation materials, transparency, firmness, textures, colors, and strength. Once a stack reached one foot in thickness under 500lbs of compression a top plate was placed on the stack and the entire stack was strapped together. Each large 4x4x1 block was then cut into four 2x2x1 blocks with chainsaws and re-strapped for the next step in the block assembly process.

While blocks were still bound with strap the edges of each block were covered with a glue product that the project team had mixed themselves. The blocks were cleaned and stacked for drying on a series of racks made in the studio. The resulting dried and cut blocks were then marked for three specific shapes that needed to be cut for walls, buttresses, and flat arch pieces. A final finishing step of post tensioning the blocks was completed with steel wire cable ran through the blocks after puncturing sleeves by drilling each piece.

A frame to hold and compress the flat arch system would be fabricated off site. Steel channels cut in half longitudinal forms and welded into the tube shapes of the frame would create strength and rigidity. The frame was designed to both support the trash blocks off the ground and to compress the final system together to stabilize the imagined block arrangement.  

Further investigation of the block system is being investigated for commercial / urban use. Development of a model of storefront grottos in which the interior gutting of existing abandoned retail zones could serve as material for block fabrication to replace these areas with urban grottos that could serve as community-based space for any number of public event space needs.  Obviously, the value of recycling, reducing waste and reusing materials as well as understanding carbon emissions, footprint and sequestering are continued investigations within the system.

The Trash Trailer continues.

copyright 2021, adam lanman   contact: adam@atelieral.com