Garbology, Edward Humes: Max Kerns

Garbology by Edward Humes was a very enlightening read. What I thought was most thought provoking were the ideas surrounding the underworld of garbage removal. We often do not take time to think about where our garbage goes, how it is processed, or who even deals with it. The idea that every person living in the United States creates on average about 102 tons of garbage in a lifetime was staggering. It really made me think about my own personal garbage footprint and how much waste I create.

Some of the things I liked in the book:

I really liked the grey box highlights throughout the book. Things like Bea Johnson’s list on page 285, history of the plastic bag page 217, etc.

The Nerds Vs. Nurdles chapter was very interesting. It is hard to image that only a hundred years ago there was not plastic in the oceans. Now it is hard to look anywhere in the ocean and not find some trace of plastics. The great garbage patches in the ocean are insane. One of the issues is that so many large companies use plastics now for production and transportation of goods along with use in many products. It would be nearly impossible to go through the day without using plastics in some way.

The idea about landfills being an archeological connection to the cultures and civilization of different times was fascinating. I wonder what future generation will think when they uncover some of the many landfills through the country. I would think that we are currently living in a time of mass production and waste. In my hometown of Columbus you do not have to go far to find the landfill south of the city. It amazes me how that used to be farms and plains land. Now the ever growing hill of trash is impossible to miss. It once again made me think of how much trash I have created in my lifetime and how much of it resides in that heap. I think of celebrations, diners, and general life memories that are now slowing decaying under the pressure of more trash collection. It really is mind-blowing to think of where my trash ends up.

I think my favorite chapter was 12. I like the idea of simplifying one’s life and to reduce consumption. There is something very satisfying about reusing and fixing items that we have. I know in the last few years that I have tried to downsize my need of “things”. I try not to buy as much as I once did and rarely buy new items. I have found buying clothing and good from thrift stores is not only cheaper but gives items a second life. It made me think of local artist that use waste items to create art. I love the idea of making something old new again.

Finally, the book made me take a more serious look at how much waste there is in everyday life. Especially living on a college campus where convenience tends to dictate packaging. However one of the things that really get me going is the amount of junk mail, flyers, and general paper waste that is delivered to me daily. I have currently found no method of making this stop and it aggravates me to no end.   It seems silly to me that I have to accept this form of waste and have no control over it.


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