Category Archives: Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste

The (Electronic) Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste

Back in April, I mentioned that the Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage was available.  At the time, I had four copies of the hardcopy version on my dining room table.  It is gratifying to, after months of work editing and revising entries, have a tangible, heavy object (more precisely, two tangible, heavy objects) as proof of your efforts.  The vast majority of readers may not care about that sweat equity, however, and may not wish to risk hernias to look up issues relating to sewage, climate change, recycling, nuclear power, or, well, the waste generated by publishing books and periodicals.

Thankfully, readers have another, lighter option.  If you go to SAGE’s website dedicated to the encyclopedia, you will see a box in the upper right-hand corner exclaiming “This title is available electronically via SAGE Reference Online.” This week, I had an opportunity to play around with the electronic edition, and it is an excellent way to search the wide variety of topics we included. The home page offers four search options:

Advanced Search – Use keywords if you have a specific query
Reader’s Guide – Find entries by browsing through thematic categories
Entries A-Z – Browse or ‘search as you type’ the entire list of entries
Subject Index – Browse A-Z or ‘search as you type’ the contents of the index

For a more than 1200-page, two-volume reference work, this electronic option is handy. It also gives you the option of printing or saving to PDF individual entries. Reading this version more closely approximates my experience of editing the work, as initial entries were submitted on Microsoft Word documents via a searchable database. This version has the advantages of polished entries, dozens of supplementary photographs, and easy-to-use links both within the entries and in the sidebar Subject Guide.

If your library or lending institution is interested in stocking this title, direct them to the publisher’s contact information to get the process started.

The Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage

This is a blatant plug.  Since 2010, I have been working on editing a two-volume interdisciplinary encyclopedia about how we classify, create, and manage our wastes through consumption. The last bits were edited just before New Year’s 2012 and now The Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage has been released by SAGE Publications.  This is what SAGE says about the book.

Why does the average American household send 470 pounds of uneaten food to the garbage each year? How do societies around the world cope with their refuse? How does trash give insight into attitudes about gender, class, religion, and art? Academic studies of garbage allow us to better understand the complexities of our consumption and waste.

SAGE Reference has just published the authoritative Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage, which explores the topic of trash across multiple disciplines within the social sciences. Extending further to also include business, consumerism, environmentalism, and marketing, the two-volume set was written by scholars from around the world, including anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, philosophers, policy analysts, and sociologists, who understand the intricate dynamics of consumption and waste. The 400 A-to-Z, up-to-date entries are helpfully organized in a Reader’s Guide within the following key topics:

  • Archaeology of Garbage
  • Consumption and Waste, Industrial/Commercial
  • Consumption and Waste, Personal
  • Geography, Culture, and Waste
  • History of Consumption and Waste
  • Issues and Solutions
  • Municipal/Local Waste
  • People
  • Sociology of Waste
  • U.S. States: Consumption, Waste Collection, and Disposal
  • World’s Largest Cities: Consumption, Waste Collection, and Disposal

Our trash is our testament; what we throw away says much about our values, habits, and lives. SAGE’s Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste is an outstanding resource for academic and public libraries serving those interested in municipal waste management systems, policy history, industrial research, environmentalism, marketing, design, and even psychology.

General Editor Carl A. Zimring is assistant professor of Social Science and Sustainability Studies at Roosevelt University. Consulting Editor William L. Rathje is the founder and director of the Garbage Project, which conducts archaeological studies of modern refuse.

The variety of viewpoints by the more than 80 different authors made this an exciting project to edit, and I think the result will be a valuable reference work on consumption and waste for years to come.  For more information about the encyclopedia and how your library might order a paper or electronic copy, see SAGE’s site for the book.

Recently, I appeared on WCPT’s Mike Nowak Show to discuss the encyclopedia, and you can hear this episode as a podcast (click the link to listen or download). The Mike Nowak Show can be heard Sundays 9:00 – 11:00am, CST on 820 AM and 92.7 (north), 92.5 9 (west), & 99.9FM (south). It also streams over the internet at