Reading for Garbology by Edward Humes

The book is divided into three sections. In the first part of Garbology, we are introduced to “Big Mike” aka Mike Speiser, whose crowning achievement is the pinnacles he creates full of trash, more than 130 million tons of trash in the Puente Hills landfills; used as the last resting place for Los Angeles trash (20). The part about the seagulls becoming a problem for their ability to pick up trash and then dump it in someone else’s manicured lawn. Therefore, the trash facility workers have to set up fishing lines to stop the gulls from landing on the trash heaps (34). New York and Col. George E. Waring’s method of lessening the amount of divided garbage into ash, garbage, and rubbish (47). Trash Olympics who would have thought of that, I have never heard of the trash collectors having a set of events they compete in sponsored by the Solid Waste Association; and who better to represent Puente Hills than “Big Mike” himself (60).

In part two named Trash Detectives, Humes examines the concept of “smart trash” developed by MIT inspired by the ideas of Sterling. They are considered the first trash trackers. They have shown the meandering process of trash and where it travels and some have not even made it to their intended recycling plant. “The creators of smart trash wanted to expose how waste gets where it’s going- the meandering, mysterious and, it turns out, occasionally disturbing path it takes after it is thrown away” (147). The fact that there are only thirteen facilities that are equipped and able to recycle cathode-ray tubes, found in old television set and considered very toxic, are all located throughout China (153). Not only are our production being outsourced but also the disposal of our trash, there is no way that this should be considered a sustainable method of recycling.

In the last section of the book titled, The Way Back, the author presented the problem and abundance of plastic and the small confetti-like particles. This section discussed how harmful plastic is to the environment to the fish, wildlife and humans too. The plastic in the oceans attract many toxins and then the fish and we consume them in fish and other seafood. Also due to marine debris pollution, hundreds of thousands of seabirds, according to Keller, have died (239). I really liked the conceptual thinking presented in this quote. “Bags are kind of like the gateway drug to all the plastics, and if we can kick that habit, all the rest of our single-use habits will start to fall like dominoes” (244).

In conclusion, Humes presents multiple examples of the problems with trash and its effects or indirect effects on wildlife, humans, and the rest of the planet. From plastic bags, to smart trash, and the trash Olympics, this book explored it all. The diagrams and images he added were easy to follow and interpret. The author’s intent was to show our addiction to trash is way more problematic than we have been taught to believe, this also shows that the efforts we have made have not been able to put a “dent” in the problem. Although, this allows us to see that the professionals do not even know the next step towards a sustainable solution; but as Humes points out this acts as an invitation, “an opportunity to take a step back and consider a new normal” (288). Overall, I loved this book! It was not a struggle to finish and it is in my top three now that we have read all the books for the semester.


The infamous nurdles, small broken down particulates of plastic, found along the beach and often mistaken for broken seashells.


A disturbing image of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

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