Most helpful critical review
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2012
Extensive bibliographic notes. Solid index. Snapshot in history of trash from mid-1800s to present in urban and suburban America. A few paragraphs dedicated to pre-industrial era, world beyond US, non-urban human landscape. Recurring focus on New York City. Considers inadequacies of recycling in post-WWII America at length.
Middling narrative, not a well-told story. Perhaps 50 pages of content spread out over more than 200. Passing consideration of "cradle to cradle" and "zero waste", no consideration of "zero emissions" (Gunter Pauli) or permaculture (of the David Blume variety). No discussion of technologies or production methods that produce only non-toxic biological waste, easily separable "technical" wastes, or of any culture that does not have a concept of waste, and how materials cycle through those cultures. Curious recurring references to old friends Marx and Engels.
Surprisingly inadequate consideration of e-waste, metal scrapping in general. Nothing substantial on waste oil, non-residential "emissions", slag, mine tailings, ocean dumping, fly ash, nuclear fuel, wastewater of any kind. No consideration of primary production wastes in mining, logging, fishing, agriculture. Barely touches on the history of scrapping, salvage yards, construction waste, "deconstruction". You could not use this book to start a career in scrapping or salvage -- much less starting a small-scale materials collection, sorting, and remanufacturing operation.
But, a quick read, worth it for the bibliography and a few delightful stories (urban pigs, Riker's Island, Jean Vincenz). A model on which to improve.