You are previewing Outsmart Waste.
O'Reilly logo
Outsmart Waste

Book Description

Garbage has become a huge problem. Ever-expanding hazardous landfills, toxic waste dumps, ocean dead zones, endangered wildlife—it’s an environmental nightmare. But garbage is a recent problem—for most of human history it was a minor annoyance—so we should be able to solve it. And garbage doesn’t even exist in nature, where the output of one organism is the input of another. So why does garbage exist in human society? Why has it become a problem only in the last century? And most importantly, how can we eliminate it—outsmart the very idea of garbage? Eco-entrepreneur Tom Szaky says that to outsmart waste, first we have to understand it, then change how we create it, and finally rethink what we do with it. He traces the roots of our current garbage crisis to 20th-century social shifts and technological advances that resulted in historic changes in consuming habits—both the amount of garbage created and its longevity increased dramatically. We are now producing five billion tons of waste a year, and our only ways of dealing with it are crude and even dangerous: burying it or burning it. We can do better! Every time we make a purchase, we are essentially voting for the kind of world we want to live in. Szaky shows that by becoming acutely aware of the deeper implications of why we buy, what we buy, when we buy, and what we do with what we’ve bought, we can cast our vote for a waste-free world. And through innovative recycling and creative “upcycling” (creating new products from discarded objects), we can transform the waste we can’t avoid creating from useless waste into a useful resource—as it is in nature. We do not have to turn the Earth into a cosmic trash can. We as individuals have the power to turn this situation around. And, as Szaky demonstrates, there is a use for every kind of garbage—cigarette butts, toothbrushes, pens, packaging, you name it. After reading this mind-expanding book, you will never think of garbage the same way again.