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Learn the facts and then re-evaluate your wasteful ways!

  • Nov 22, 2012
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"Trash is nothing less than the lens of our lives, our priorities, our failings, our secrets and our hubris."

This observation from author Edward Humes in the opening pages of "Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash" certainly struck a chord with me when I first read it. But after carefully reading and considering "Garbology" in its entirety I must confess that I have become more convinced than ever of just how dire the situation surrounding our trash really is and how vital it is to our future that we finally get serious about addressing this issue. Solving the myriad problems Humes discusses in his book will not be easy. The numbers will simply astound you! We must somehow summon the courage and political will necessary to reverse the inefficient and destructive path we have chosen in the past and opt instead for policies and approaches that will reduce the amount of trash that each one of us generates while at the same time making much better use of what we do throw away.

In the opening chapters of "Garbology" Edward Humes describes in painstaking detail what is in all of the trash that we roll to the curbside on a weekly basis. You will discover the shocking truth about how much edible food we toss away on a daily basis and learn about the perfectly good clothing and household goods we cast aside merely because we have grown tired of them. In the meantime we continue to fill our landfills at an alarming rate and in most areas of the country the problem continues to get worse. I was particularly struck by the tremendous impact that the introduction of certain consumer items has had on this problem over the years. Among the products mentioned in the book are styrofoam (1944), the plastic lined paper cup (1950), the first TV dinners (1953), the Bic disposable pen (1958), disposable plastic trash bags (1960), the one-way disposable soda bottle (1964) and last but certainly not least the plastic grocery bag (1977). Certainly all of these items filled a need but no one could have predicted the negative impact that these relatively inexpensive products (most expecially plastic grocery bags) would one day have on our environment. Clearly we have morphed into a "throwaway" society and Humes argues that the time has come to finally reverse course and come to grips with the severe problems we have created over the past 60 years. Again, given the sharp philosophical divisions in this country one has to wonder if we can ever muster the political will to do what is needed.

But as Edward Humes points out all is not lost. There are solutions on the horizon that promise to transform the way we deal with our trash in this country. He cites cities like Portland, OR and Copenhagen in Denmark who are light years ahead of the rest of us in the way they deal with their trash. New recycling technologies and waste-to-energy programs offer considerable hope for solving some of our most pressing problems. But at the end of the day the solution to our waste disposal problems really does begin with each and every one of us. To paraphrase one of my favorite hymns "Let's amend our wasteful ways and let it begin with me." Edward Humes points out some very practical ways we can all be less wasteful starting with cutting back on all of that bottled water we consume. I totally agree. It is one of the most wasteful things we do and liberals are as guilty as conservatives. I am confident that those who take the time to read "Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash" will feel compelled to amend their wicked ways. Mr. Humes makes a powerful case for this position in this extremely thoughtful and well written book. Highly recommended!

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November 22, 2012
I'm a firm believer in recycling.
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Take a journey inside the secret world of our biggest export, our most prodigious product, and our greatest legacy: our trash. It’s the biggest thing we make: The average American is on track to produce a whopping 102 tons of garbage across a lifetime, $50 billion in squandered riches rolled to the curb each year, more than that produced by any other people in the world. But that trash doesn’t just magically disappear; our bins are merely the starting point for a strange, impressive, mysterious, and costly journey that may also represent the greatest untapped opportunity of the century.

In Garbology, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Edward Humes investigates the trail of that 102 tons of trash—what’s in it; how much we pay for it; how we manage to create so much of it; and how some families, communities, and even nations are finding a way back from waste to discover a new kind of prosperity. Along the way , he introduces a collection of garbage denizens unlike anyone you’ve ever met: the trash-tracking detectives of MIT, the bulldozer-driving sanitation workers building Los Angeles’ immense Garbage Mountain landfill, the artists in residence at San Francisco’s dump, and the family whose annual trash output fills not a dumpster or a trash can, but a single mason jar.

Garbology digs through our epic piles of trash to reveal not just what we throw away, but who we are and where our society is headed. Are we destined to remain the ...

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