When I spotted Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes at a local book store, one would have thought I had just snagged the last copy of a hot new novel. I was excited and grabbed it immediately. I cannot put my finger on why I am fascinated by garbage, but I am.
Don’t sit down to read this book with a plastic bottle of water or bag of chips in your hand.
The average American will throw away over 102 tons of garbage during their lifetime. That does not include waste created on our behalf by people who make the stuff we consume and throw away. It’s not as if we are trying to be wasteful. We just are. It’s an unintended consequence of how we live.
In Garbology, Mr. Humes shines a light on our garbage, the mountains of trash that are hidden but not gone. Readers will find out how garbage became our biggest export, meet interesting people, and discover ways to reduce waste.
- Tag along with Big Mike and his 60-ton BOMAG Compactor as he takes us on a tour of the massive Puente Hills landfill in California. Learn the difference between a dump and a sanitary landfill.
- Find out what it was like before municipal garbage pickup. Imagine New York City with 102,000 horses and no garbage collection. Learn the role pigs and incinerators played in making garbage disappear.
- Follow the story of how the American Dream has become a quest for material wealth, acquiring stuff, throwing it away, and getting more stuff. Being wasteful is part of the American way of life.
- Meet people who track and study garbage and those who create art from trash. It’s amazing what our garbage says about us.
- Learn about the Pacific Ocean garbage patch, the Bag Monster, and how one family reduced their annual trash to fit in a mason jar.
We do have a choice. We can stop tossing out 7.1 pounds of garbage per person every day.
The Bottom Line
I could not put down Garbology and read it over a weekend.
Mr. Humes is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of twelve nonfiction books. In Garbology, he describes a topic some may find distasteful in an easy to read and sometimes humorous way. He does not beat readers over the head with facts and figures; they are woven into the narrative of our transition from thriftiness to wastefulness.
I recommend Garbology to anyone interested in not leaving behind a 102-ton garbage legacy.
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