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Nonfiction in Brief

RUSH TO BURN Solving America's Garbage Crisis? selections from Newsday (Island Press, Box 7, Covelo, Calif. 95428: $22.95 cloth; $14.95 paper; 276 pp.)

September 17, 1989|Sonja Bolle

The American garbage crisis sailed to the forefront of national consciousness in 1987 with the infamous garbage barge that wandered for 164 days seeking a place to dispose of its cargo. Following that story, which commanded media attention for weeks, the Long Island newspaper Newsday assigned a team of reporters to a six-month investigation of what America does with its trash. The results of that investigation, first published in Newsday, are collected in this book.

The stories paint a grim picture of a society choking on its own waste. In the absence of concerted national effort or leadership, the problem of waste disposal has been left largely to individual communities. With decreasing space--and tolerance--for landfills, the response of local leaders has often been to turn to incineration, which as a result has become a burgeoning industry. Most incineration plants, however, were developed in Europe, which produces garbage of a different composition, with notably less plastic packaging than Americans are used to. Therefore, the plants operating here have not been adequately tested for the requirements of American trash disposal. The writers also look at the politics of trash and show where pressure is brought to bear through a study of campaign contributions from the garbage industry to public officials. The final chapter discusses recycling options and programs that have been successful in other countries.

Island Press specializes in the publication of books on environmental issues.

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