In computing, garbage collection (also known as GC) is a form of automatic memory management. The garbage collector or collector attempts to reclaim the memory used by objects that will never be accessed again by the application or mutator. Garbage collection was invented by John McCarthy around 1959 to solve the problems of manual memory management in his recently devised Lisp programming language.

Many computer languages require garbage collection, either as part of the language specification (e.g. Java, C#, Dylan) or effectively for practical implementation (e.g. formal languages like lambda calculus); these are said to be garbage-collected languages. Other languages were designed for use with manual memory management, but have garbage collected implementations (e.g., C, C++). In either case, it is far easier to implement garbage collection as part of the language's compiler and runtime system, but post hoc GC systems exist, including ones that do not require recompilation. The garbage collector will almost always be closely integrated with the memory allocator.