But our bins are just the starting point for a strange, impressive, mysterious, and costly journey that may also represent the greatest untapped opportunity of the century. Garbology reveals not just what we throw away, but who we are and where our society is headed. Waste is the one environmental and economic harm that ordinary working Americans have the power to change—and prosper in the process. Garbology is raising awareness of trash consumption and is sparking community-wide action through One City One Book programs around the country.
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In the interview, Humes was talking about Bakelite, an early plastic that was used for billiard balls, piano keys, and telephones -- things that were meant to be durable, and have long, even heirloom-length, lives.
He was calm and reasoned, not casting blame but describing a shift in the way materials are used as being problematic. It was impersonal, informative, and assumed intelligence from the audience. He moves further into the story of trash by describing other hoarders, the condition of hoarding, and the media attention it has received in the last few years.
His punchline is startling: "But little if any thought is given to the refuse itself, or to the rather scarier question of how any person, hoarder or not, can possibly generate so much trash so quickly.
But make no mistake: The two or three years it took the Gastons to fill their house with five to six tons of trash is typical for an American couple. There is a reasonably detailed discussion of how one estimates that amount, and multiple illustrations for how much tons really is. Aircraft carriers are involved. Humes then poses three questions: What is the nature and cost of that ton monument of waste?
How is it possible for people to create so much waste without intending to do so, or even realize they are doing it? Is there a way back from the ton legacy, and what would that do for us Part 1: The Biggest Thing We Make describes how America deals with trash, how it has been dealt with in the past, and some "paths not taken" in the history of American waste management.
He talks about the concept of waste and wastefulness, how our natural sense of thrift was overcome by early mid-century advertisers fans of Mad Men might find this familiar territory , and how the political climate defeats promising policies.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is discussed in rather depressing detail. Humes corrected my misconception, a common one, he asserts, that the Garbage Patch not to mention the other gyres collecting plastic trash in the other oceans is not an "island" of trash, but a chowder of plastic bits with floating detergent bottles and milk cartons and old toys floating around what ought to be a pristine blue surface thousands of miles from anywhere.
Part 2: The Trash Detectives was perhaps the most depressing section of the book. Humes does a great job of detailing exactly what is and is not known about trash after its useful life, and although the information itself is depressing, his prose never is.
Part 3: The Way Back was The remainder of the section talks about the efforts communities around the world and one Marin County, California family of four has been working to reduce their waste, one innovative idea at a time. Humes makes a powerfully readable case for the value of our resources, and for renewing our natural tendency to thrift.
Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
Garbology Explained Garbology is the study of modern refuse and trash as well as the use of trash cans, compactors and various types of trash can liners. As an academic discipline it was pioneered at the University of Arizona and long directed by William Rathje. The project started in , originating from an idea of two students for a class project. Industries wishing to demonstrate that discards originating with their products are or are not important in the trash stream are avid followers of this research, as are municipalities wishing to learn whether some parts of the trash they collect has any salable value. The studies of garbology and archaeology often overlap, because fossil ized or otherwise time-modified trash preserved in midden s is quite often the only remnant of ancient populations that can be found. For those who did not leave building s, writing , tombs , trade goods, or pottery , refuse and trash are likely to be the only possible sources of information.