Chapter 1

Where the Modern Idea of Garbage Originated


© Apic/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

© aastock/

Human refuse—“garbage”—is a modern idea that arose out of our desire to chronically consume stuff that is made from ever more complex, man-made materials.


To outsmart waste we need to eliminate the very idea of waste; to do so we need to understand where the concept of waste came from and what factors brought about its existence.

Useful versus Useless Outputs

Why is it that garbage exists in the human system but not more broadly in ...

Get Outsmart Waste now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.