Trash on rooftops in Cairo, Egypt


It's the secret material that transformed cities from primitive outposts into pillars of civilization. Trash has forced mankind in radical urban and architectural directions, propelled advances in science, and jump-started revolutions. From the skyscrapers of Manhattan to the catacombs of Paris, the ruins of Rome, the sewers of London and the frenetic markets of Cairo, join us as we explore how these great cities fought against the tides of corpses, human waste and stinking garbage to rise above the rubbish.


Episode Guide

  • London Waste Eco Park


    Over 2,000 years, London's struggle with trash leads to huge casualties and massive public projects that alter the shape of the city and the world.

  • Closed up dumpsters


    With a population of three million that swells with 20 million tourists each year, Rome is in a timeless battle between its beauty and its trash.

  • Horses hauling dirty straw as a wagon is loaded


    See how trash reinvented Paris from the underground up. The City of Light was once a city of unspeakable filth and decay.

  • People picking through garbage in Cairo, Egypt


    Each day, Cairo accumulates about 25,000 tons of trash. In a land of narrow streets and donkey-drawn carts, how is it all picked up?

  • Bags of trash in New York City

    New York

    Discover the complete history of trash in Manhattan, from the first Dutchman who filled its marshes to the freegans who empty its trashcans.

Buy This Show

Now, you can watch Smithsonian Channel's incredible documentaries and shows anytime you want. Download them straight to your favorite devices from any of these distributors: