Review of Garbology

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  • Analytical
  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples


Journalist Edward Humes follows the trail of garbage from product production to waste collection to landfill, incinerator or ocean. He’s a diligent researcher, and he develops the intriguing portraits of his subjects in great detail. His reporting uncovers normal daily practices that have a huge, negative environmental impact. Humes’s shocking overview could foment changes in how you live, what you buy and how you eat. He can help managers and decision makers reconsider their business practices so that their companies learn to dispose of trash in a more environmentally sensitive way. He ends many sections with a quick-facts page that helpfully sums up the chapter’s important ideas. Humes’s detailed presentation of a solvable dilemma will intrigue managers, purchasers, supply-chain officers, entrepreneurs, retailers and every citizen who wants to live more cleanly.

About the Author

Edward Humes has written 11 nonfiction books, including Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Walmart’s Green Revolution, and has received a Pulitzer Prize and a Pen Center USA award. He contributes to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles magazine.


Trash Day

Residents of the United States, on average, discard more than seven pounds of trash daily, more than any other people on Earth. Their individual lifetime total will add up to about 102 tons of garbage. Studying a nation’s trash yields precise measurements of its prosperity. The US has only 5% of the world’s population, but produces 25% of the globe’s trash. Consider the following figures from a sample of American waste:

  • The US dumps 19 billion pounds of polystyrene (Styrofoam) packing peanuts every year. These never degrade and cannot be recycled.
  • Garbage in the US holds enough aluminum – even though it is recyclable – to rebuild all of the world’s commercial airplanes four times.
  • Americans discard 35 billion plastic water bottles each year.

All of this waste has to go somewhere. The current repository in most US cities is a landfill. These are not new inventions. Some 2,500 years ago, the ancient Athenians put trash in landfills to keep their city’s streets clean. What sets modern landfills apart is their size. For example, the Puente Hills landfill in California, which was slated to close in 2013, is a still-growing 130-million ton mountain of trash. Puente Hills is a “sanitary landfill” – meaning machines crush the trash and layer it with dirt.

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