Talking About Trash | New Books Highlight a Critical Issue

While experts agree that getting governments to legislate the reduction of waste in all forms is the most important step we can take at this moment in time, it’s never too early to educate our students about what needs to be done globally and locally, and what they as individual citizens can do.

Here at School Library Journal, we’ve been talking about trash. As noted in Kallen’s Trashing the Planet, across the globe humans create trillion pounds of waste every year, some of it recyclable, some of it not, and a fair amount of it  toxic. While experts agree that getting governments to legislate the reduction of waste in all its forms is the most important step we can take at this moment in time, it’s never too early to educate our students about what needs to be done globally, locally, and what they as individual citizens can do. This trio of books will update your collection.

redstar FYVIE, Erica. Trash Revolution: Breaking the Waste Cycle. illus. by Bill Slavin. 64p. chart. further reading. glossary. index. Kids Can. Apr. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781771380782.
Gr 3-6–Using the contents of an average kid’s backpack as a starting point, the author explores the production, use, and eventual end of products involving water, paper, foo, plastic, clothing, metals, and electronics. Thorough, yet never dull or heavy handed, the text offers information about the life cycle of common and necessary materials and the many stages each goes through before it is consumed or discarded. There is emphasis on the need to reduce waste and many facts and statistics are offered to support the notion that the amount of garbage produced on Earth is no longer sustainable. Innovative ideas currently being offered to combat waste, such as edible or compostable spoons and using zoo poop for energy, are discussed. Information on the time required for running shoes to decompose (1,000 years) or T-shirts (six months) will give students a better understanding of  why it is important to repurpose goods, and eliminate the acquisition of unnecessary stuff. A final chapter that discusses waste in space moves the problem from Earth into the stratosphere. Amusing and instructive illustrations, charts, and sidebars add interest as well as details pertaining to the waste cycle, and will hopefully inspire readers to become more educated consumers involved in a zero-waste future. VERDICT Endlessly informative and eminently readable, this book is an invaluable resource for students interested in the creation of goods and the resulting waste cycle.–Eva Elisabeth VonAncken, formerly at Trinity-Pawling School, NY

KALLEN, Stuart A. Trashing the Planet: Examining Our Global Garbage Glut. 104p. bibliog. glossary. notes. photos. Twenty-First Century. Aug. 2017. lib. ed. $37.32. ISBN 9781512413144.
Gr 6-10–Veteran nonfiction author Kallen’s latest is a great primer on the world’s trash problem. The “global garbage glut,” as he calls it, is at almost epic proportions and demands worldwide attention. Garbage and waste have long been problems for humans, but prior to Western industrialization, mostly everything people used or produced was made of organic materials, which would eventually biodegrade. However, the advent of industrialization made products more affordable and thus easier for people to buy in larger quantities. Also, the invention and widespread use of plastics and synthetics that do not biodegrade and often release toxins when they do break down have contributed to the problem. The book is well written, the tone is matter-of-fact and not preachy, and the text is approachable but not simplified. The design is colorful and appealing, with excellent photos, text boxes, and graphics enhancing the presentation. Unfortunately, by the time of publication, some of Kallen’s statements regarding the Environmental Protection Agency and its policies will be dated because of changes made by President Trump’s administration. VERDICT An excellent resource that’s chock-full of facts about human impact on the planet. Hand to students concerned about the environment, and put it on the shelf for research and reports. –Gretchen Crowley, formerly at Alexandria City Public Libraries, VA

redstar MCCARTHY, Meghan. All That Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff. illus. by Meghan McCarthy. 48p. bibliog. photos. S. & S./Paula Wiseman Bks. Feb. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481477529.
Gr 3-5–The year was 1987 and a ship full of trash was about to become famous. This is the engaging, humorous, and entirely true story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and its world-traveling adventure. When he discovered a New York landfill was almost full, Lowell Harrelson had a revolutionary idea. The owner of a waste management company wanted to take the trash to an alternate location and test a process that could create electricity from garbage. However, word leaked that an entire barge of trash was setting sail for parts unknown and suddenly no one would let him bring the trash ashore. A five month–long saga ensued, taking the debris all the way to Central America and back in search of a final resting place. The narrative is immensely readable and is graced with comical illustrations that feature period correct facial hair and clothing styles. Readers will gain perspective from several points of view, including government officials, news anchors, and even the captain of the tugboat in this excellently sourced and presented tale. An exceptional addition to environment or Earth Day collections, this will have appeal as both an independent read and a mentor text for whole class studies. The supplementary material includes photos from the actual barge, facts about the barge, recycling, garbage, and ocean garbage, as well as ideas for reusing trash. VERDICT A fresh take on a story of old garbage guaranteed to spark conversations and a desire for actions among students. Highly recommended.–Emily Beasley, Omaha Public Schools

For additional titles that highlight the problem of waste, see our earlier article "Talkin’ Trash."


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