Garbage 1900s, the makeup of garbage had

Garbage in the Cities: Refuse, Reform, and the Environment, Martin V. Melosi, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005, revised edition.Martin Melosi provides a fascinating history of garbage in the US between 1880 and 2000. This is an update of his book by the same title, originally published 20 years ago.Until the late 1800s, garbage was primarily seen as a nuisance that people tried to get off the streets and toss in heaps just outside of the city or town. Starting in the 1880s, municipalities for the first time began to develop programs to address garbage problems. This happened as people became aware that piles of garbage were a human health and environmental threat. Municipal involvement also arose in the late 1800s and early 1900s as the “city beautiful” movement became more powerful. During this period, there was some interest in addressing garbage issues differently to preserve resources, but this was a minor consideration.ILLUSTRATION OMITTEDMelosi points out that the garbage problem was increasingly seen as a technical problem and accordingly fell into the hands of sanitary engineers. This meant that from the 1920s through the early 1960s, the main focus was on technical disposal methods such as incineration and, increasingly, the sanitary landfill.In the 1960s, more people became involved in garbage issues as those living near disposal sites became ardently opposed to the sites and it became almost impossible to site new disposal facilities. Garbage was now increasingly seen as a national crisis rather than simply a municipal problem. This shift resulted in a new focus on recycling.Melosi’s description of changes in the makeup of garbage over time holds valuable lessons. In the late 1880s and early 1900s, garbage was primarily ash from home stoves, animal droppings and food wastes. By the latter part of the 1900s, the makeup of garbage had changed dramatically and was increasingly dominated by consumer products, which are very different in nature from the earlier wastes (and are associated with different hazards).