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Resisting Garbage

Resisting Garbage
The Politics of Waste Management in American Cities

Resisting Garbage presents an empirically grounded explanation for what meaningful change in waste management could look like and why that change is so difficult.

November 2021
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248 pages | 6 x 9 |

Resisting Garbage presents a new approach to understanding practices of waste removal and recycling in American cities, one that is grounded in the close observation of case studies while being broadly applicable to many American cities today.

Most current waste practices in the United States, Lily Baum Pollans argues, prioritize sanitation and efficiency while allowing limited post-consumer recycling as a way to quell consumers’ environmental anxiety. After setting out the contours of this “weak recycling waste regime,” Pollans zooms in on the very different waste management stories of Seattle and Boston over the last forty years. While Boston’s local politics resulted in a waste-export program with minimal recycling, Seattle created new frameworks for thinking about consumption, disposal, and the roles that local governments and ordinary people can play as partners in a project of resource stewardship. By exploring how these two approaches have played out at the national level, Resisting Garbage provides new avenues for evaluating municipal action and fostering practices that will create environmentally meaningful change.

  • List of Acronyms
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. The Evolution of America’s Weak Recycling Waste Regime
  • Chapter 2. Non-Planning for Garbage in Boston
  • Chapter 3. Deconstructing Garbage: Radical Reframing in Seattle
  • Chapter 4. Compliant and Defiant Wasteways: Boston and Seattle Within the WRWR
  • Chapter 5. Resisting Garbage
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index

Lily Baum Pollans is an assistant professor of urban policy and planning at Hunter College in New York.


“With this book, recycling is born anew. By providing a uniquely comparative analysis of multiple cities and a detailed overview of real-time democratic deliberation, we learn that other wasteways are possible. An essential read.”
Joshua O. Reno, Binghamton University, author of Military Waste: The Unexpected Consequences of Permanent War Readiness

“Lily Pollans’s comparative approach to understanding solid waste management in two large American cities, centered on the notion of a "wasteway," is truly additive to our collective understanding of how we handle garbage. Policymakers, environmentalists, and folks in the waste management industry will all find something to learn from this book.”
Jordan Howell, Rowan University