Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage

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Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage. Ed. by Carl A. Zimring and William L. Rathje. Los Angeles. Sage Reference, 2012. 2 vols. $320 (ISBN: 9781412988193).

The Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage is a two-volume reference work which addresses a multitude of subjects about garbage from what we consume, the products we purchase and put in our waste streams, and the disposal services and methods used to deal with the trash. General Editor Carl A. Zimring, now an Associate Professor of Sustainability Studies at the Pratt Institute, states in the introduction, "What we classify and dispose of as wastes provides rich insight into our behavior, social structures, and treatment of our environment" (xxv).

There are 391 entries arranged alphabetically that have all been written and signed by 196 international contributors. Anthropology, archaeology, environmental studies, history, and sociology are a number of the fields represented, making this an interdisciplinary source. Articles are written for the general reader, and a reader's guide in volume 1 organizes the essays into eleven broad categories; some of these include "Archaeology of Garbage," "History of Consumption and Waste," and "Issues and Solutions." This encyclopedia is useful for its currency of issues, and readers can find entries on such topics as "Downcycling," "Freeganism," "Junk Mail," "Mobile Phones," and the "Pacific Garbage Patch." There are also articles on each of the US states, many other countries, and international cities which discuss the consumption, waste collection, and disposal practices in each territory.

Each entry concludes with a further reading list and cross-references to other topics. Volume 2 provides a glossary, index, and resource guide that consists of books, journals, and websites. …


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