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Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash    by Edward Humes order for
by Edward Humes
Order:  USA  Can
Avery, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

As Americans, 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!

Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash contains this and numerous other tidbits and quirky facts about the epic amounts of trash we create. Most of us roll our green trash containers to the curb once a week and then forget all about it. When we wake up the next morning the bins are empty and we can begin the process of refilling them with yard waste, recyclables, and garbage.

This eye-opening investigation of what has become our largest export is not all negative. Sure, Edward Humes describes mega landfills such as a virtual mountain of garbage called Puente Hills, dubbed the Disneyland of Dumps in Southern California, and the wasteland of floating plastic and trash that befouls the thousands of square miles of Pacific Ocean.

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.

The picture is not all negative. 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 (400 500 tons per day) power-generating plants to not only get rid of waste but also produce the power that has helped make the country energy independent.

As the story unfolds, the reader will meet a host of interesting individuals whose lives are touched one way or another by trash. Among these folks are Bike Mike, who drives a huge compacting machine at a landfill; Mary Crowley, a woman who has spent years charting the Pacific Garbage Patch; and Bill Rathje, a Harvard professor and garbologist.

This sweeping investigation of the accumulation of trash graphically illustrates not just the causes and outcomes of this mounting problem but it 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.

A quick read, this fascinating book 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. Fortunately, there are some solutions that will enable us to avoid the ignominious fate of being buried in our own garbage!

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