Archaeologists uncover recycling system used by Romans in Pompeii

A group of researchers, including Allison Emmerson from Tulane University and Steven Ellis and Kevin Dicus, investigated a series of trash mounds found at the edges of the city. The mounds weren't actually dumping grounds, but staging areas were residents of the ancient Roman city sorted their trash and pulled out items that could be repurposed for construction or other uses. The most commonly recycled items were earthenware goods like old tiles, chunks of mortar, and amphorae, a distinctive clay jar with a narrow neck with two handles on either side, all of which would be used to construct new buildings. Building walls made from the recycled materials were typically finished with a thin layer of plaster to make it appear as one uniform surface rather than a bric a brac of different objects. Some researchers had previously thought the numerous mounds found around the remains of the city were the result of the eruption or a series of earthquakes that had occurred in the years leading up to it. According to Emmerson, the new evidence of ancient recycling practices offer some potential lessons for the current consumption crisis that has seen the average American generate 4.51 pounds of garbage a day.