- Paperback: 280 pages
- Publisher: University of Arizona Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0816521433
- ISBN-13: 978-0816521432
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #694,718 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage Paperback – March 1, 2001
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“A mother lode of valuable information . . . There ain’t no flies on this book.”—Wall Street Journal
“[Rubbish!] demolishes myths that hamper our ability to act sensibly; as a nice bonus, it entertains as it goes about its business.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Readers will be impressed by Rathje and Murphy’s delightfully fresh take on the human foibles and the garbage heaps of history.”—Washington Post Book World
“An almost joyous iconoclasm about a vexatious subject.”—Boston Sunday Globe
“[Rathje and Murphy] cull from the record astonishing data to counter many a myth. . . . A refreshing treatment of a subject not usually associated with refreshment.”—Kirkus Reviews
“This lively study is an informative and often entertaining introduction to the science of garbology.”—Contemporary Sociology
From the Inside Flap
It is from the discards of former civilizations that archaeologists have reconstructed most of what we know about the past, and it is through their examination of today's garbage that William Rathje and Cullen Murphy inform us of our present. "Rubbish!" is their witty and erudite investigation into all aspects of the phenomenon of garbage. Rathje and Murphy show what the study of garbage tells us about a population's demographics and buying habits. Along the way, they dispel the common myths about our "garbage crisis"--about fast-food packaging and disposable diapers, about biodegradable garbage and the acceleration of the average family's garbage output. They also suggest methods for dealing with the garbage we do have.
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This project also included studies at the now closed Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island in New York City where holes were bored all the way to the bottom of the fill and where the studies then took on a more ominous dimension of environmental impact discoveries such as: that the breakdown of trash, even over years, is a myth. The research showed that there is little biodegradation occurring due to compaction and lack of bacterial decomposition, so the researchers found completely intact and recognizable items from food to readable newsprint- even at the bottom of the heap where it was at least 50 years old- same type discoveries of intact trash heaps discovered in ancient Rome, Greece, etc.
Most distressing of the discoveries in the landfill was the discovery of the huge quantity of "leachate"- a toxic liquid stew, that is leaking at the rate of a million gallons a day into New York Harbor.
The book concludes with recommendations on alternatives to landfill as a means to dispose of trash plus recycling and lifestyle changes.
For another enlightening read on all things trash, there is Elizabeth Royte's "Garbage Land"- a personal story of discovery of what her family's trash footprint is and where everything including recyclables ends up- a real eye-opener and an entertaining read!
Despite being a book about garbage, the contents of the book are quite diverse. The book is divided into 4 parts. The first section, An Introduction to the Garbage Project, gives the background of "The Garbage Project", why it started, what they do, and what they hope to accomplish. This section also discusses how anthropologists use garbage to learn about ancient civilizations. The second section, The Landfill Excavations, discuss the basic theories of landfills, how the team takes samples from landfills, and discusses why biodegradation does not work in landfills. The third section, Interlude: Diapers and Demographics, I found to be highly entertaining. This section has a fascinating chapter on estimating the population of a neighborhood (as well as sex and age) based on the garbage collected from this neighborhood (a study done to initially help the Census Bureau). This section is also filled with useless information such as "There is a link between owning a cat and reading "The National Enquirer"". There is also a detailed discussion about disposable diapers in landfills. The final section, Garbage and the Future, was the most educational by far. This part discusses the serious shortcomings of citywide recycling programs and side effects people never hear about. There are also discussions on alternate garbage disposal methods, such as high tech incinerators used to generate electricity, as well as several other attempts at using technology to turn garbage into a useful product. The section and the book end with a chapter on reducing and addressing garbage disposal.
I think this book will not be for everyone. The book reads like a Master's Thesis at times, rather long and seems to ramble. However, some parts of the book are exceptional (such as the chapter on recycling or "Closing the Loop") and are really an eye opener.
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in Environmental Sciences. Also, if you can manage to wade through pages of various scientific theories and facts, I'd highly recommend picking this book up! While a little slow reading at times, it is quite informative and I think a real eye opener.