GARBOLOGY by Edward Humes


Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
Email this review


Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Humes (Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution, 2011, etc.) examines how wastefulness is built into the American way of life.

The author shines a spotlight on every aspect of the economy, from corporate practices to the habits of individual families, to substantiate his thesis that “the American Dream is inextricably linked to an endless, accelerating accumulation of trash.” Marketing encourages wastefulness, he writes; planned obsolescence is built in to manufactured products, and purchasing the new rather than repairing the old has become the order of the day. The products “all come packaged in instant trash [and] what's inside that packaging is destined to break, become obsolete, get used up or become unfashionable in a few years, months or even days.” Humes offers plenty of surprising, even shocking, statistics—e.g., one in every six big trucks in America is a garbage truck; according to the EPA, from 1980 to 2000, “the average American daily trash load increased by a third.” This is more than 50 percent higher than in other countries with a similar standard of living. Humes discusses the problem of pollution caused by the proliferation of trash, specifically hazardous, nonbiodegradable waste. He uses the example of Coca-Cola’s mid-1960s substitution of plastic for reusable glass bottles to show how companies have cheapened their cost of production at the expense of the environment. The author also writes about families who have enthusiastically adopted more frugal lifestyles to protect the environment, taking simple measures such as downsizing their living accommodations, buying in bulk and not wasting food. He looks at the case of Ireland, where the government has introduced a tax on plastic bags; a similar proposal in San Francisco was blocked.

An important addition to the environmentalist bookshelf.

Pub Date: April 19th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-58333-434-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Avery
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2012


NonfictionSOUNDINGS by Hali Felt
by Hali Felt
NonfictionTHE OCEAN OF LIFE by Callum Roberts
by Callum Roberts
NonfictionIN PURSUIT OF GIANTS by Matt Rigney
by Matt Rigney


NonfictionA MAN AND HIS MOUNTAIN by Edward Humes
by Edward Humes
NonfictionFORCE OF NATURE by Edward Humes
by Edward Humes
NonfictionECO BARONS by Edward Humes
by Edward Humes


ChildrenCARTONS, CANS, AND ORANGE PEELS by Joanna Foster
by Joanna Foster
NonfictionENERGY FOR FUTURE PRESIDENTS by Richard A. Muller
by Richard A. Muller
NonfictionCLEAN TECH NATION by Ron Pernick
by Ron Pernick