Books— Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
(Avery/Penguin, 288 pages, $27), by Edward Humes
As a nation, we throw away about 7.1 pounds of trash per day per person. Over one’s lifetime that adds up to about 102 tons of trash! Or, putting it another way, if we took our trash with us when we died, our family would need the equivalent of 1,100 graves to bury all of it.
This fascinating book — a quick read — offers plenty of food for thought as Edward Humes attempts to shake us out of our “official state of garbage denial” and make us realize something must be done to address this mounting problem.
Besides tossing out the mindboggling figures, explaining why our production of trash has steadily increased, and citing the ineffectual ways we have chosen to deal with it, the author also looks at a few success stories.
Small countries like Denmark, cities like Portland and San Francisco, and scores of individuals have devised ways of coping with trash and, in many cases, made it an asset rather than a liability. Using new, clean technology, Denmark constructed a series of small trash-burning power plants to not only get rid of waste but also produce the power that has helped make the country energy-independent.
This sweeping investigation of the accumulation of trash graphically illustrates not just the causes and outcomes of this mounting problem but also points to some viable ways of dealing with the dilemma of what to do with it all. Bigger and better landfills are not the answer, but there are solutions — besides creating less trash and stepping up the amount of recycling we do — that actually make all this unwanted material work for us.