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Why We Save Garbage

My first thought: “Oh, no no no. You don’t deserve this.” And I bent down, pulled it off of the branch, and cradled it in the palm of my hand.

My second thought: “I will save you.” And I zipped it into my coat pocket.

My next thought: “What the hell was that?” I’d just picked up trash from a dirty Brooklyn sidewalk and put it in my pocket. Worse: if my dog likes peeing on those trees, I’d bet the other dogs in the neighborhood do, too, which made it a probable urine-soaked piece of trash. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.

Brooke Borel has a post on The Last Word on Nothing (a really terrific blog maintained by science writers), about why we develop feelings for garbage (like, actual things people have thrown away—not terrible people who have treated you not-so-well). Borel says the main reason she saved the garbage she found was because it had human features, and when you see something that looks like a human, you develop empathy for it. Basically, this is The Carrie Diaries, but for Hoarders.

Photo: Brooke Borel