The best books that challenge our understanding of waste

Why am I passionate about this?

As a youngster I used to drive my parents crazy because I was so passionate about recycling. I rekindled this passion about five years ago and started Everyday Recycler. Through my website I help people improve their recycling habits by offering actionable instructions with a focus on explaining how recycling works and its intrinsic value. I also advocate strongly for recycled products. I believe that by purchasing recycled products, we can help generate demand for the materials we toss in our recycling bin and contribute to the overall success of recycling. These works have educated and inspired me over the years. I hope they inspire you as much.


I wrote...

Recycling For Dummies

By Sarah Winkler,

Book cover of Recycling For Dummies

What is my book about?

Recycling is a simple action we can take that has an immediate positive effect. It keeps waste out of landfills, conserves natural resources, prevents pollution, and saves energy. Who wouldn’t want to do this? But recycling isn’t always easy. With so many different rules, it can be hard to work out the right thing to do.

Recycling For Dummies breaks down recycling and the associated rules and symbols in a straightforward way that anyone can understand and apply. But the book goes much further than simply helping you recycle, it explains why recycling is important, how it works, and the reasons why it sometimes fails. Plus, it’s jam-packed full of tips to help reduce your impact and make smarter choices as a consumer.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash

Sarah Winkler Why did I love this book?

Garbology is the wake up call we all need! It’s shocking and eye-opening and because of this it's an excellent place to start reassessing our own understanding of waste.

Despite being published in 2013, it remains extremely relevant. Unfortunately, the stats reported in the book have not improved all that much over the last decade. Not only does the author highlight the issues of our waste but he introduces you to the reality of the political, economic, and logistical nightmare that is waste management.

It's really important that we understand these challenges in order to accept the imperfections of waste management and recycling. Doing so saves us from getting discouraged when things don’t always work and feeling like giving up recycling altogether. 

By Edward Humes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Garbology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist takes readers on a surprising tour of America’s biggest export, our most prodigious product, and our greatest legacy: our trash


The average American produces 102 tons of garbage across a lifetime and $50 billion in squandered riches are rolled to the curb each year. But our bins are just the starting point for a strange, impressive, mysterious, and costly journey that may also represent the greatest untapped opportunity of the century.

In Garbology, Edward Humes investigates trash—what’s in it; how much we pay for it; how we manage to create so much of it; and how…


Book cover of Material Value: More Sustainable, Less Wasteful Manufacturing of Everything from Cell Phones to Cleaning Products

Sarah Winkler Why did I love this book?

Reading Material Value will deepen your understanding of how everyday products are made, motivate you to make more informed consumer choices, and inspire you to advocate for more sustainable and less wasteful manufacturing practices. Seems like a lot, doesn’t it?

But the book is jam-packed with detailed information helping the reader to appreciate what is required to make the products we use daily. In addition, I appreciate how the author gives the background information from a fair standpoint and emphasizes that cooperation and open communication are preferable strategies for change than direct confrontational tactics.

While bad companies do exist, more often than not, other circumstances impede companies from acting in a more ethical manner.

By Julia L F Goldstein,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Material Value as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

"Meticulous editing and a succinct style.... Exemplary for its balanced and reasonable viewpoint, the text deserves to be classified as a reference tool for countless professionals." —Publishers Weekly, BookLife Prize Creative Solutions from Smart Businesses

Are you concerned about plastic waste and its effect on public health and the environment? You're not alone.

Read Material Value to learn about the challenges facing the manufacturing world and how to make choices that are less wasteful and less harmful to people and the environment.

Discover:

How metals and plastics are made and what happens when they are recycled…


Book cover of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

Sarah Winkler Why did I love this book?

Cradle to Cradle challenges conventional approaches to design and sustainability.

The authors present a compelling vision for a world where products are created with a 'waste equals food' philosophy, imitating natural systems by reusing resources and eliminating harmful waste. The books struck me as being both encouraging and depressing at the same time, a sentiment I get from many other sustainable and recycling books.

However this is the reality of the complex world of materials we have created for ourselves and one we must come to grips with. Unfortunately change can be slow, so even though this book was written two decades ago it remains relevant today and offers a pragmatic roadmap for the future. 

By William McDonough, Michael Braungart,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Cradle to Cradle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How can we avoid environmental disaster? Nowadays, in the home, most of us do our bit: we recycle. But what about industry, where the real damage is done? The strategy is the same: 'reduce, resize, reuse' - we try to minimize the damage. But there is a limitation to this well-intentioned approach: it maintains the one-way, 'cradle to grave' manufacturing model of the Industrial Revolution, the very model that creates immense amounts of waste and pollution in the first place.What we need is a major rethink, a new approach which directly combats the problem rather than slowly perpetuating it. An…


Book cover of The Right to Repair: Reclaiming the Things We Own

Sarah Winkler Why did I love this book?

In researching my own book I learnt that e-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams on the planet. It impacts the environment and humans at all stages from extraction of raw materials to the end of life disposal.

A key solution is to keep items in their originally intended use as long as possible. Right to Repair explores the critical issues of corporations limiting consumers' ability to repair their own products, leading to planned obsolescence and ultimately unnecessary waste. This is an urgent issue that requires more attention and plays a crucial role in reducing e-waste and its negative effects on the environment.

Right to Repair will help the reader understand their rights to repair-friendly technology and help them become a more informed consumer.

By Aaron Perzanowski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Right to Repair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In recent decades, companies around the world have deployed an arsenal of tools - including IP law, hardware design, software restrictions, pricing strategies, and marketing messages - to prevent consumers from fixing the things they own. While this strategy has enriched companies almost beyond measure, it has taken billions of dollars out of the pockets of consumers and imposed massive environmental costs on the planet. In The Right to Repair, Aaron Perzanowski analyzes the history of repair to show how we've arrived at this moment, when a battle over repair is being waged - largely unnoticed - in courtrooms, legislatures,…


Book cover of A Family Guide to Waste-free Living

Sarah Winkler Why did I love this book?

I wanted to conclude my list with a more hands-on book that offers everyday tips that can help people make simple sustainable changes in our daily lives.

I found A Family Guide to Waste-free Living as a useful tool in my own efforts towards reducing waste. It has practical, family-friendly advice on how to minimize waste in various aspects of your daily life, from grocery shopping to household cleaning. Its actionable content is easy to follow no matter where you are in your own journey towards lowering your waste and your overall impact. 

By Lauren Carter, Oberon Carter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Family Guide to Waste-free Living as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This book provides the ingredients to create a new normal." Costa Georgiadis host of Gardening AustraliaTackle our ever-growing waste problem. A Family Guide to Waste-free Living gives you all the information, advice, budget-friendly recipes and projects you'll need to start reducing waste in your life. Lauren and Oberon Carter make it it simple and sustainable for families to eliminate waste in the home, at work, at school and out in the world. This is a practical and inspiring resource for anyone wanting to live more sustainably. Inside you'll find:- Simple activities for the whole family.- Instructions on building waste-free kits…


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Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

Book cover of Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

Sam Baldwin Author Of Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an Englishman who fell in love with a 300-year-old former sausage curing hut on the side of a Slovenian mountain in 2007. After years of visits spent renovating the place, I moved to Slovenia, where I lived and worked for many years, exploring the country, customs, and culture, learning some of the language, and visiting its most beautiful places. I continue to be enamored with Slovenia, and you will regularly find me at my cabin, making repairs and splitting firewood.

Sam's book list on books about Slovenia

What is my book about?

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house, but what was meant as a pitstop becomes life-changing when he decides to stay. Along the way, he meets a colourful cross-section of Slovene society: from dormouse hunters, moonshine makers, beekeepers, and bitcoin miners, to a man who swam the Amazon, and a hilltop matriarch who…

Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

What is this book about?

'Charming, funny, insightful, and moving. The perfect book for any Slovenophile' - Noah Charney, BBC presenter

'A rollicking and very affectionate tour' - Steve Fallon, author of Lonely Planet Slovenia

'Delivers discovery and adventure...captivating!' - Bartosz Stefaniak, editor, 3 Seas Europe

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house but what was meant as…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in recycling, environmentalism, and law?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about recycling, environmentalism, and law.

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