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Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  317 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Eat a take-out meal, buy a pair of shoes, or read a newspaper, and you're soon faced with a bewildering amount of garbage. The United States is the planet's number-one producer of trash. Each American throws out 4.5 pounds daily. But garbage is also a global problem; the Pacific Ocean is today six times more abundant with plastic waste than zooplankton. How did we end up w ...more
ebook, 306 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by New Press (first published 2005)
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May 22, 2013 Paige rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you! and you! and you!!!
This book was pretty informative on a topic I didn't know much about.

For me, the beginning few chapters were interesting but not particularly revelatory. However later on in the book--the chapters "Spaceship Earth," "Recycling," and "The Corporatization of Garbage"--were really engrossing for me. I have notes from almost every page. Basically there is a conspiracy (like, these people actually do openly contrive and scheme and lobby and finagle) to generate trash and it's pretty apalling.

Dec 28, 2011 Talia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is an ambitious book about an important and pressing issue: the overwhelming problem of how to deal with our municipal garbage (and, perhaps more importantly, the consumer issues that lead us to having so many discards in the first place). But I have to think that the people who gave the book 4 stars and up are doing so because they believe in the cause and not because the story-telling is so well executed.

I struggled with the description of the modern landfill in the first chapter in part
Kevin Quirolo
Oct 08, 2012 Kevin Quirolo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Environmental activists and bottled-water drinkers alike.
Recommended to Kevin by: Berkeley Public Library
This well documented book addresses the absurdly tragic reality of our waste disposal system. The first half is dedicated to the history of garbage in the United States, which would only be interesting to someone interested histories of the mundane. The second half discusses more recent history leading into current practices, which are gripping in their grotesque destructiveness. The chapter on recycling is especially disturbing in its reversal of received wisdom.

It is published by the progressi
My brother suggested I read this book after an email I sent to him bemoaning all the waste our home remodel was regenerating. It's not an engaging text by any means; I found it difficult to read and often had to force myself through a chapter at a time. The history of garbage disposal is an interesting topic - who knew our waste hauler, Waste Management Inc., was the largest hauler in the country? That much of what we so carefully sort and clean for recycling is, literally, trashed because the d ...more
Aug 02, 2014 Mia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-teaching, garbage
What happened to cooperative kitchens?
When was fixing things deemed unpatriotic?
Why can't we return our empties?
How did the plastics industry appropriate the last word in a grassroots chant at the first Earth Day and thus convince all of us that the endless production of packaging is normal because it can be recycled (but it's not)?
Why was salvaging in the dump banned?
Who drove the mob out of the garbage business?
How much of our purchase price is packaging?
Why are most landfills only guaranteed
Jul 12, 2015 Loreley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
ინფორმატიული წიგნი ძალიან საჭირო საკითხზე.
მოცემული ისტორია ამერიკას მოიცავს ძირითადად, ევროპის რამდენმე ქვეყანაცაა მოყვანილი ალტერნატიული გამოსავლის მაგალითებად. მიუხედავად ამისა, არარელევანტური არაა ნამდვილად ჩვენთვის - ცუდ მაგალითზე კარგად შეგვიძლია ვისწავლოთ, სურვილი თუ აქვს ვინმეს.

მიუხედავად იმისა, რომ წიგნის 80% ფაქტების ციტირება და შეჯამებაა, უჩვეულოდ კარგად იკითხება წიგნი და მე პირადად არ მომბეზრებია
May 21, 2016 Miranda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Placeholder review

Placeholder review. Predictably depressing but an essential read nonetheless, this book is more than a Marxist screed telling you the depressing crap you already knew. Some copyediting errors mar an important look into detritus as a mirror.
Camille McCarthy
Feb 22, 2015 Camille McCarthy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very well-researched book on what happens to garbage and how it got to be this way, looking back at the history of waste collection in the United States. It's so upsetting to see how we went from having almost no waste (everything was seen as useful) to seeing everything around us as eventual trash. It was interesting to see the different methods of using discarded items, such as feeding slop to pigs, sorting and selling certain items, and composting, and seeing how these methods wer ...more
Aug 29, 2012 Noëlibrarian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this when it first came out, in 2006, and despite other reviewers' complaints of its dullness, I found it fascinating and extremely readable. And it angered me. One particular chapter I remember most clearly - one that I tend to cite during dinner parties, before I stop myself - is called "The Golden Age of Waste", and deals with the post-war consumer boom in America. Everyone had a kitchen full of shiny new appliances, so advertisers began to convince people they needed a second fridge f ...more
Jun 01, 2008 Torie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first part of this book was hard to get through. In fact, the folks who loaned it to me both put it down after the first few chapters. They warned me that it was depressing, and holy cow they were right. I started it at the same time that I was reading "Where We Stand: Class Matters," and the two ended up complementing each other in an interesting way. bell hooks' discussion of class as it relates to wealth, poverty, materialism and the sharing of resources speaks to the history of American ...more
Trisha Quigley-Regan
excellent. This book is very factually and at times get drag, but the facts about the history and impact of US garbage are horrific. This book will change the way you choose to purchase and consume. Americans consume way to much garbage, and useless products and packaging. I believe I can not change everything but that one person CAN do so much, and try their hardest not to be one of the billions of people carelessly polluting the earth. It isn't as though our consumption began from need, it beg ...more
Dec 03, 2013 Gillian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gone Tomorrow was a very eye opening book about the reality of waste in America. It really focuses on how capitalism has had a major influence on the amount of garbage that is produced each year. It also focuses on the amount of garbage produced by every person each day and where it all goes.

I liked how this book sort of gives you a behind the scenes look a what is really happening. It lets the reader know that this is a huge environmental issue that is worsening each day due to the selfishness
Oct 11, 2007 Bart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The important thing to remember about landfills is that they're not just an unfortunate byproduct of capitalism; they actually represent the success of capitalism" (152). So Heather Rogers quotes John Marshall. Rogers quotes many waste historians, business insiders, government officials, and grassroots activists in this well researched and written book. She traces the modern conceptions of "garbage" and the disposal of "garbage" from 1800's America when few had many manufactured goods and glean ...more
Andrew Kollen
Apr 07, 2015 Andrew Kollen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heather Rogers books does an excellent job of discussing an issue that is often overlooked. Through her use of statistics, looking at garbage in the past and arguing that companies are to blame for the waste American’s create, Rogers intrigues the reader and helps them stop and think about the waste they use each day and the serious implications of it. Rogers passion for the world is evident through her desire for more legislature to regulate the materials companies can use. She wants Americans ...more
Oct 21, 2008 TheSaint rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
The United States generates approximately 230 million tons of garbage every year --about 4.6 pounds per person per day. Gone Tomorrow by Heather Rogers, is an attempt to find out where it eventually ends up and why.
Sure, recycling has become more readily available to the average consumer, but remarkably, a lot of what you and I "recycle" ends up buried or incinerated, along with the non-recyclables. Why? The answer lies with the first part of the waste-reduction mantra "reduce -- reuse -- recyc
Apr 02, 2008 Jabari marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Enlightening. Confirms once and for all that Waste is a Lie. In America, not only is it a lie but it's also big business. The American Consumer is a deeply conditioned creature, programmed to consume objects contrived by industries that care little or nothing about the diseases that bloom from their toxic culture. But according to Heather Rodgers' research, this wasn't always the case. Next time Waste Management asks you to "Think Green. Think Waste Management", think again. I was delighted to m ...more
Sep 21, 2008 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
a straight-forward, readable account of what happens to waste when it's disposed in america. rogers begins with some scary facts, and works backwards throughout the history of trash and clean-up for the past 200-ish years. it's not the most exciting book in the world, but it's clear and reasonable, and it makes a strong argument. i found the conclusion particularly useful, when rogers (following a chapter devoted to the ups-and-downs of recycling) makes several compelling suggestions for public ...more
Jul 02, 2011 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found Gone Tomorrow highly enlightening. I had been completely unaware of the transformation of conceptions of garbage in the 19th and 20th centuries in the United States and the rest of the western world. Most of the book is quite historical, describing incidents from the shift away from pigs as a waste-disposal method in the 1920s to the breakup of the "garbage mafiosi" system in New York in the 1990s. But at its heart this is not a historical book, but an environmental one, with the goal to ...more
Jun 08, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to read this book for a semester in one of my classes. Very informative and well organized and brings attention to a topic we aren't always thinking about even though it's all around us. I admit, my professor was a bit way overboard with conservative passion for the topic so my colleagues and myself weren't so able to take the book's message to heart and just were aiming for a grade. But, there's no harm in reading this recreationally and there will probably be some pro-Eco motivation gain ...more
Kay Marie
Feb 22, 2015 Kay Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
best horror novel I've read in a while! oh wait this is nonfiction.... but seriously I've learned so much from this book. it makes me so sad how greedy and short sighted American manufacturers are. since starting this book I've made a very serious effort to reduce my waste before i even bring it into the house. I'm seeking out products based on the least amount of packaging used. I'm painfully aware of my waste now and i really think before i do anything. i wish everyone would read this book and ...more
Apr 27, 2009 Christine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I choose this book for book critique for my Geography class, I have to say it definately made me look at garbage in a whole new light, mostly in regards to the production of garbage. My biggest complaint about the book was the sheer amount of notes and citations, it was very distracting at times. But in regards to the subject at hand, I suppose facts are necessary. I agree with a few of the other, this book was very depressing, it makes me wonder what we are leaving behind for our children to de ...more
Aug 20, 2008 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Crucial, if not always elegantly composed. A reader on Amazon criticizes this book for not coming up with any solutions to the waste crisis. This is not the case. Only a reader looking for a quick fix to an apocalyptic problem or a beguiling inspirational narrative such as Cradle to Cradle would make this claim. The book underscores that the only way to undo the damage we have done to the planet and to ourselves is to consume less--and thereby to initiate a fundamental, systemic break in the way ...more
Anthony Schein
Feb 20, 2007 Anthony Schein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who care
I am currently reading this book. It is excellent.

Did you know that:
*Drinking straws are so named because before plastic drinking straws, people used straw (like in barns) to drink through?

*At the turn of the 20th century, there were 3.5 million horses on the urban streets of the United States, each of which excreted 20 pounds of manure and 2 gallons of urine for every eight hour work day.

*Americans produce 30 per cent of the world's garbage
Dora Caro
Aug 02, 2011 Dora Caro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent discussion about how the Capitalism has created this huge problem, and how this system has a key tactic of blaming individuals on the responsibility for the environmental degradation, and to displace this responsibility away from industrial production. "Packages do not litter, people do" The author, discuss some historical capitalism examples on greenwashing.
I found Heather Rogers an inspiring author !!!
Susan Gallagher
Well researched look at the history of garbage. The gal knows her stuff. Some pontificating here and there, and a penchant for ten dollar words in the first few chapters. But get through that and you have a truly eye opening look at how we've been manipulated into paying a high price for trash. Good read.
Dec 20, 2007 Alissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An (often politicized) read for those who want to read about the history of garbage production and disposal (and there must be a ton of you). I did find myself wanting to change my habits. The amount of stuff we waste and the impact of small things on the planet is astounding. Well, "duh," but this book explains exactly why and how.
Heather Muzzy
Jul 13, 2010 Heather Muzzy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beginning seems to go on forever and is completely depressing... even if one is already recycling and doing their part. The reality of how many are NOT is overwhelming. The references are many but justified (and tried to skim over) but the integrity would be questioned if Rogers did not include them.
The topic of waste management is definitely being approached from a conflict theorist point of view in this NYT bestseller by Heather Rogers. While it lacks the more metered approach of Rafje and Murphy's "Rubbish" (Univ of Arizona Press, 2001), and is replete with value judgements and one liners, it does fill in some interesting historical gaps with the phenomenon of waste management.
Nov 21, 2012 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice quick read with an insightful look at the social, political, environmental and economic aspects of garbage, to name a few. I will definitely seek out the documentary by the same name that Rogers made before writing this book.
Jan 28, 2008 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who breathes
Recommended to Denise by: Erin
I just started this book, but I can already said it should be a pre-requisite for living. Where does our trash go after we absentmindedly throw it away? And why do we need so much stuff? This books will open your eyes to the reality of our abuse to the planet.
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Heather Rogers is a journalist and author. She has written for the New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, and The Nation. Her first book, Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage, traces the history and politics of household rubbish in the United States. The book received the Editor’s Choice distinction from the New York Times Book Review, and Non-Fiction Choice from the Guardian (UK). Her docume ...more
More about Heather Rogers...

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“And in garbage we find material proof that there is no plan for stewarding the earth, that resources are not being conserved, that waste and destruction are the necessary analogues of consumer society. This” 0 likes
“About 80 percent of U.S. products are used once and then discarded.13” 0 likes
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