Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash

What is America's largest export, most prodigious product and greatest legacy -- the biggest thing we make? Our trash. Each of us is on track to toss 102 tons of garbage in a lifetime, 7.1 pounds a day, every day. We roll to the curb our collective body weight each year -- eighteen times over. Our disposable plastic alone outweighs the entire U.S. Navy -- and it costs us hundreds of billions of dollars.

But there's good news, too: there are families, companies and whole communities who are finding a way back from waste, and profitting in the process. Through a compellingly human, at times absurdly humorous trash travelogue, Garbology reveals how government cooks the books to conceal the severity of our trashy ways, how the consumer economy is hijacked to encourage our costly love affair with waste, and how a new generation of waste-weary men and women are just saying no—and finding that our biggest roadblock to restoring prosperity and our planet just might be our trash cans. 


"Unlike most dirty books, this one is novel and fresh on every page. You'll be amazed." — Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

"An eye-opening account. Humes picks through our refuse like a kind of social anthropologist to see what our garbage reveals about our culture and its values. But the most compelling parts involve the cast of colorful characters he meets along the way." — Boston Globe

"Fascinating… Zestful in his curiosity and irrepressible in his vivid chronicling."
           — Booklist (Starred Review)

"In this well-written and fast-paced book, Edward Humes delves into the underbelly of a consumer society -- it's trash. What he finds is so startling and infuriating, you will never think about 'waste' in the same way again."
           — Samuel Fromartz, author Organic Inc

Amazon      Barnes & Noble     Indiebound      Books-A-Million      Apple

Garbology Buzz

Campus and community reads

Garbology has been chosen as a freshman or campus-wide read at universities across the nation, including California State University Northridge, the University of Central Florida, Washington State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of New Mexico, Columbus State University (Georgia), Rowan University, Norwalk Community College (Connecticut), Bellarmine University, Marymount California University and Hampshire College, my alma mater.

I've also participated in Garbology community reads and forums with the residents of Portland, Oregon, Palos Verdes, California, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Atlanta, Georgia.


Fresh Air: Garbology interview with Terry Gross, National Public Radio, April 26, 2012.

CNN - The Road to Rio: "Turning Trash to Treasure," April 19, 2012.

CNN: Article, slideshow, video, "Inside America's Largest Landfill," April 26, 2012.

Slate, The Afterword, with June Thomas: America's Love Affair with Garbage, May 24, 2012.

The Leonard Lopate Show: "The Trail of Trash," WNYC (NPR New York), April 26, 2012.

AOL TV: You've Got…. 90 seconds on Garbology, June 2012.

The Page 99 Test: Book Excerpt and Short Essay on "Edward Humes's Garbology," April 28, 2012.

WHYY (NPR Philadelphia): "Garbology: A Look at America's Trash," Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, April 26, 2012.

Minnesota Public Radio: "Following our Garbage," May 18, 2012.

New Hampshire Public Radio: "Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash," August 20, 2012.

Los Angeles Times: "Trash Talk with a Consumerist Message," April 22, 2012.

The "Difference Engine: Taking Trash," the Babbage Science & Tech Blog, April 28, 2012.


Boston Globe: The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist has written an eye-opening account... He picks through our refuse like a kind of social anthropologist to see what our garbage reveals about our culture and its values. Yet Humes’ book is not just a depressing tale of thoughtless waste and overconsumption. He ends on a hopeful note, leaving the reader with positive examples and reasonable alternatives... Humes lards Garbology with telling graphs and stunning statistics. But the most compelling parts involve the cast of colorful characters he meets along the way." 

Los Angeles Times: "Edward Humes Enjoys Digging Through Rubbish."

Jonathan Bloom, author, American Wasteland"Garbology is an illuminating, entertaining read that ultimately provides hope and tips for a less wasteful future. This book will make you want to burn, or at least recycle, your trash can!"

Library Journal: "Pulitzer Prize and Pen Award winner Humes turns his impressive investigative skills to the subject of the economic and environmental consequences of America’s waste crisis. But Humes also showcases some ecoenterprises that creatively repurpose refuse… Horrifying, well-documented, and fascinating… this should be a 'One Book' reading selection in every American community."

The Economist: "Garbology is his (Humes') attempt to make sense of our historically unprecedented readiness to throw things away... Food for thought, and more."

Englewood Review of Books: "Humes... manages to encourage readers to roll up their sleeves and get busy on ways to reduce our 102 ton legacy."

LA Observed: "Investigative author Edward Humes has been on a roll of books in recent years, about Wal-Mart, enviro activism, the south, evolution poliitics. His newest, Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash, warms my wonkish heart."

Village Voice: "American Garbology 101,"

San Jose Mercury News: "Humes dazzles readers with stunning statistics, but the book's most compelling sections involve the cast of colorful characters he has rounded up.

Business Insider: "America's Obsession with Shopping Is Doing a Number on Mother Nature," 

TheFrugalista: "Going Green is Frugal and Fab."

BlogCritics: "Eye-opening... The author takes a sober look at a very serious threat to our world, but he does so in an extremely inviting style."

Publishers Weekly: "Humes' take on the science and culture of 'garbology' is both academic and deeply personal, making this a fascinating read." 

Book Forum: "Compelling... A persuasive and sometimes astonishing indictment of an economy that's  become inextricably linked to the increasing consumption of cheap, disposable stuff -- ultimately to our own economic, political and, yes, environmental peril." (print only).

Kirkus: "Surprising, even shocking" and "an important addition to the environmentalist bookshelf."

Booklist (starred review) "Zestful in his curiosity and irrepressible in his vivid chronicling, Humes takes us on a garbage tour, beginning with a hoarders’ home, where an elderly couple were trapped and nearly killed by accumulated trash, and moving on to Puentes Hills, where a monumental Southern California landfill has become a garbage mountain. As Humes describes the complex and constant operations there, he swings into a fascinating history of trash, from ancient Athens and the first municipal dump to the “legendary filth” of nineteenth-century New York City to the crux of today’s challenges, the “plasticization of America.” The plague of plastic bags and bottles and mindless, credit-card-fueled consumerism has many dire consequences, the worst of which is the trashing of the oceans, which have become poisonous “plastic chowder.” Then there arethe toxic politics and big business of garbage. But Humes finds hope in the innovative work of dedicated garbologists, trash trackers, and activists who are intent on exposing the hazards and travesties of excessive trash and pointing the way to the “low-waste path.” (registration required)


My articles

Wall Street Journal: "Grappling with a Garbage Glut," by Edward Humes, April 14, 2012.

Forbes: "Garbage: A Costly American Addiction," by Edward Humes, April 13, 2012.

Wall Street Journal: "Earth Day Analysis: How Waste Hurts the Economy," by Edward Humes, April 22, 2012.

Sierra Magazine: "Garbage In, Garbage Out: Time to recycle the trash bible," by Edward Humes, March/April 2012

Sierra Magazine: "Blood and Oil: The Greening of the US Military," by Edward Humes, May 2011

Sierra Magazine: "Fractured Lives: The Costly Waste Behind the Shale Gas Revolution," by Edward Humes, August 2012

On Garbology from my Blog