Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash” as Want to Read:
Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  2,091 ratings  ·  379 reviews
A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist takes readers on a surprising tour of America’s biggest export, our most prodigious product, and our greatest legacy: our trash.

The average American produces 102 tons of garbage across a lifetime and $50 billion in squandered riches are rolled to the curb each year. But our bins are just the starting point for a strange, impressive,
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 2012 by Avery
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Garbology, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Garbology

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,091 ratings  ·  379 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash
Oct 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have this habit of thumbing through the new books in my campus library while waiting for lunch to heat up in the microwave located there. I came across this book like this, read a couple lines, and checked it out. I read the introduction while eating lunch and was immediately fascinated. Having not given much thought to how much trash I personally make and where it goes (I mistakenly thought it just decomposes in the landfill), Garbology opened my eyes to how wasteful our society is.

I could g
Cindy Brown Ash
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2012
I encountered this book by chance when part of the NPR interview of Edward Humes, author of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash caught my attention.

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 imp
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: innovation, history
This book got off to a slow start, providing a somewhat interesting but well - told history of trash, but soon became much more interesting and unique, teaching me many things I of which I was fairly unaware.

Starting at the dawn of civilization, Humes detailed the various steps humans took to get rid of their waste. They threw it into streets, out windows, and generally everywhere they lived. Basically early humans, who gave up their nomadic ways to live in villages, cities, and empires lived i
Beth Kakuma-Depew
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I found some chapters more fascinating than others. The story about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch would make an excellent children's picture book. The section on landfills was also interesting. I do love my two Chicobags, and was surprised they had been targeted in legal battles by Big Plastic. I didn't even know there was a Big Plastic Industry in America. The information about the Waste-to-Energy plants was great!

But I read the last chapter on the Johnson family's life without any plastic w
Jun 20, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Emily by: Hampshire College
Don't read this book. Here's all you need to know:
We make a lot of trash. Plastic is the main cause of it. Most people don't know that we make this much trash because we hide the problem. Help clean up trash. Recycling isn't very efficient, but it's still better to recycle than to throw away recyclables. There is a family who can live with one mason jar of trash per year, but she's mostly just outsourcing her trash so she doesn't really even count. Bring reusable bags everywhere you shop. There'
Wow, when I logged in to Goodreads to post my review after reading this book I was shocked to see all the 5 and 4 star ratings. When I read the introduction, I was really fascinated. But, in the end I didn't care for this book at all. Did it have some interesting facts? yes. Did it have some interesting anecdotes? sure. But, overall, it was a 20 page manuscript turned into a 300 page book. For me it just dragged on and on and on. There are just so many ways you can say the same thing over and ov ...more
Ill D
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
With a title as resoundingly complete as Garbology, I fully expected a thoroughly fleshed out treatise on all aspects of this filthy field of study, from the detritus to Gehenna to the very pertinent and vast landfills of our modern era. In sloppy contradiction to both it’s title and no-so-florid subtitle, “Our [non existent] dirty love affair with trash,” this trite tome could be well described accurately by neither. Instead of something firmly constructed and well organized, a pathetic pastich ...more
Chris Demer
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book is fascinating, and somewhat shocking. The volumes of refuse produced by our consumer society is extraordinary. The average American produces 7 pounds of trash per day - or 102 tons in a lifetime!
In addition to a history of the "garbage problem" and ways it has been addressed(or not) throughout history, the author describes in some detail where our "garbage" goes now. While we can feel complacent in our belief that a vast amount of our trash is now recycled, the actual amount is not gr
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Garbology" is an eye-opening read. It's also sobering, and I defy any one to read this book without afterwards finding oneself thinking of ways in which to alter one's lifestyle--whether subtly or dramatically--in an effort to reduce one's own waste impact. Humes presents us with unmistakable truths about everyday items, such as the (still) ubiquitous plastic grocery bags. I found the statistics he puts forward about the amount of plastic particles floating (and sinking) in our earth's oceans t ...more
Andrew Mutch
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
You wouldn't think a book about trash and garbage would make for an interesting read. But "Garbology" takes the topic of trash and turns it into a thought-provoking read. The author breaks it down into 12 easy to read chapters each exploring a different aspect of waste and garbage in our culture. You'll learn how the transformation of the United States into a nation of consumers has turned us into a wasteful nation that generates mountains of trash. The author follows a winding path back and for ...more
Jun 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Required reading for anyone who makes trash (so ... everyone). A very readable study of our garbage addiction: why we make it, where it goes, and what alternatives there might be. Full of frightening facts and inspiring suggestions, I don't think anyone could read this book and not make some changes. (I now haul home all our work food scraps for my personal compost.) Humes isn't preachy or overly moralistic: he presents the facts, and you can take care of the judgments yourself. This is a wake-u ...more
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Yaaresse by: Goodreads rec
Note: while this book does discuss other countries, it is mostly focused on the United States and so the comments below reflect that. After all, we Americans are the ones wasting the most and denying it the hardest.

Each and every one of us will generate an average of 102 tons of trash in our lifetime, a bit over 7 pounds per day. (Actually, those are numbers from almost a decade ago, so it's probably a lot worse now.)

Most of us have the luxury of municipal waste service, so we trot our overfil
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-read
Might’ve been 5 stars if I’d had time to read from front to back but I was pushed for time so I started near the end and then backtracked to the beginning. I was expecting the book to have more overlap with the other book I read about garbage (Waste and Want) but this was completely different. Much more readable for one thing! But also much more focused on the present day situation (plastic chowder oceans) and the challenges of the future. There was only about one sentence of overlap about the e ...more
Megan Rosol
One of the books that encouraged me to avoid plastic in my life and lower the amount of waste I create. We're very hungry, toxic and wasteful animals. ...more
Rebecca From Florida
Dec 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes is a book that has changed my life. Honestly. I ran across this book at the library and picked it up since it looked interesting.

I have always been into recycling, but this book opened by eyes to the waste that surrounds us, and how recycling is only a teeeeeeeensy piece of a solution.

Here are some of the things I learned from Pulitzer Prize Winner Edward Humes:

One out of every 6 large trucks in America is a garbage truck
America has 5%
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: current-affairs
Documentary, educational and full of human interest stories, Garbology makes going through the trash very worthwhile. Edward Humes writing style is so flowing and easy to follow that I am going to check out his other books - Monkey Girl? What could that be about?

Americans have a problem with waste and it's perfectly understandable. Why shouldn't things be thrown away without thought when the price paid directly in dollars by the average citizen is insignificant, the stuff disappears like magic a
We have become a consumer culture, a society where disposable is all too common. This book looks at trash and all it entails: landfills, recycling, and what else can be done with it, and/or about it, and/or ideally things we can do to reduce it. Plastic is, of course, a big issue - including the “patch” of plastic floating around the Pacific Ocean (which is apparently more of a soup or chowder (smaller chunks all over the place), rather than a patch where it’s all together in the one spot).

I th
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In describing Puente Hills, America's largest active landfill, Humes says it's "impressive. It's also compelling, revelatory and horrifying all at the same time." Well, that pretty much sums up this book too!

Hume explores what and how much we throw away (102 tons in the lifetime of an average American!) and then what happens to it. Our waste mismanagement system is explained against a historical and political context. This is not just about recycling, composting, and converting garbage to fuel.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it liked it
If you want to read a book about waste, look no further! This one here is chock-full of tidbits about trash. Honestly, it’s scary enough I could have saved it for my Halloween reading list. I do think I will take away and remember info from this, but time will tell.

Pro tip: If you absolutely must throw away a plastic grocery bag, tie a knot in it so it won’t become a wind-born trash bird sailing away from the dump.
Nate Hendrix
Nov 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing study of what we throw away. It has made me think much more about what I use and throw away. I will be trying to make some small changes is what we purchase. Not gonna change the world, just some small changes.
Joan Concilio
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction-read
Read this at the recommendation of Chris, who also lent it to me. We have long been interested in reuse and conscious spending, but this blew my mind about how far I can still go in my quest to generate less waste and consume less overall. This should be required reading for any teen or adult.
Ben Rogers
Nov 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book has broken me. The number of diapers, plastic bags, and just things that people no longer want but are still usable are making an island of garbage in the ocean. This is just a terrible learning.

This book will make me not want to buy anything that is plastic ever again I'm sure
I'm already being very thoughtful about my waste output, but I'm sure this book will change me into a stronger environmentalist
This book has fundamentally changed the way I perceive trash - namely plastic. This i
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, waste
This book was published in 2012, so a few of the facts in it are now out of date. There's been a massive change in China's policy of importing American trash and recycling, and I think the numbers for waste and pollution production overall are now even higher than they were 7 years ago. However, this is a still very readable and informative book. Humes has won multiple Pulitzers for his writing- he's very good at focusing each chapter on a specific person and their relationship with/battle again ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of fascinating stuff in this book -- trash tours in L.A., artists in residence at the S.F. waste facility, floating islands of plastic in the ocean. But the book really got interesting in the last half when the author discussed how (and whether) we can solve what is already a waste disposal crisis. We like to feel good about recycling our cardboard boxes or spending a weekend morning picking up litter, but we need to shift our values to USE LESS in the first place. The book is written with ...more
Joseph Boquiren
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book changed the way I look at garbage. Too often when we throw stuff in the trash we immediately forget its existence. That piece of garbage does not go away however. It becomes a part of our legacy that comes out to 102 tons per person every year. If it is properly disposed of that piece of trash may become recycled or part of a nearby landfill. At the worst our garbage remains in our environment, polluting our water, our oceans and our surrounding landscape. Edward Humes argues his point ...more
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read. It gave many different perspectives on trash and how we've dealt with it through history. A garbage dump is not just a garbage dump. It's a labyrinth of different layers of stuff that can be used as energy, investigated by by archeology, and is a constant reminder of the existence of humans.

As you might expect, it was depressing to read about how plastic is ruining the natural world, but it was interesting to learn how we ended up where we are. It also provided some hope for d
Nicole Means
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in 2013 for the first time and again in July 2020. I would like to see a revision of the original statistics— Americans weren’t doing so great in terms of waste then and I am sure we have only gotten more wasteful as our gluttonous consumption levels continue to rise. Although the statistics are a bit dated, one fact remains true—- making our waste disappear from our communities and neighborhoods has blinded us to the amount of water, food, and other resources that we waste ever ...more
Sophie Wieland
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Okay, this was a good thing. A sad, scary, I-should-probably-change-everything-and-make-everyone-around-me-change-everything-too thing, but a well-written, interesting, thought-provoking thing. You should read this. And your cat and mailman and really wasteful neighbor, etc.

My only regret was that it took me forever to finish it (sorry nonfiction, I have a slight issue with getting through you in a reasonable amount of time...).
Jul 30, 2017 added it
This book was great. Lots of very interesting information about our consumption and waste. Everyone should read this book which has great insight into small steps we can take to reduce our own trash. Good information on what some communities in the US are doing, as well as countries such as Denmark.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Too many facts - how many times does the author need to impress upon us just how outrageous the amount of trash we create is? I did like reading about how trash was handled in the past, some of it seemed like great ideas while others were incredibly dumb. I also found this book depressing because it seems we're never going to get better about dealing with our garbage. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too
  • Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste
  • Zero Waste: Weniger Müll ist das neue Grün
  • The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and our Health—and a Vision for Change
  • Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade
  • Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale
  • Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
  • Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash
  • Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age
  • 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste
  • Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History's Mightiest Matriarchs
  • Losing Earth: A Recent History
  • All the Young Men
  • The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Make Small Changes That Make a Big Difference
  • Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health
  • Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice
  • Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World's Most Savage Murderers
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Edward Humes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is the author of nine books of nonfiction, most recently, Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for Americas Soul and Over Here: How the G.I. Bill Transformed the American Dream. His next book, "Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet," will be out next year." ...more

Related Articles

Juneteenth, observed on June 19th each year, is an American holiday commemorating the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in Galveston,...
104 likes · 16 comments
“Americans make more trash than anyone else on the planet, throwing away about 7.1 pounds per person per day, 365 days a year. Across a lifetime that rate means, on average, we are each on track to generate 102 tons of trash. Each of our bodies may occupy only one cemetery plot when we’re done with this world, but a single person’s 102-ton trash legacy will require the equivalent of 1,100 graves. Much of that refuse will outlast any grave marker, pharaoh’s pyramid or modern skyscraper: One of the few relics of our civilization guaranteed to be recognizable twenty thousand years from now is the potato chip bag.” 9 likes
“Average household credit card debt topped the landmark of $10,000 in 2006, a hundredfold increase over the average consumer debt in the 1960s. One consequence: Much of the material buried in landfills in recent years was bought with those same credit cards, leading to the quintessentially American practice of consumers continuing to pay, sometimes for years, for purchases after they become trash.” 3 likes
More quotes…