Outsmart Waste: The Modern Idea of Garbage and How to Think Our Way Out of It

  • 1h 36m
  • Tom Szaky
  • Berrett-Koehler Publishers
  • 2014
  • Changes everything you ever thought you knew about garbage—and is guaranteed to change how you buy, consume, and dispose of things
  • Explains the origins of the modern garbage crisis and what each of us can do to solve it
  • Written by a dynamic young entrepreneur whose innovative, award-winning company has enlisted 35 million people to help outsmart waste in 22 countries

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.

About the Author

Tom Szaky is the founder and CEO of TerraCycle, an innovative and award-winning global recycling company that makes typically nonrecyclable waste recyclable in over twenty-four countries around the world. Globally, over 60 million people participate in TerraCycle’s programs.

In this Book

  • Where the Modern Idea of Garbage Originated
  • The Role of the Individual Purchase
  • Our Primary Global Solution to Waste: Bury it
  • The Energy Inherent in Our Waste
  • The Hierarchy of Waste
  • The Art of Upcycling
  • The Science of Recycling
  • The Critical Element of Separation
  • The Economics of Outsmarting Waste