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Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in Americaby Carl A. Zimring
Synopses & Reviews
Over the past two decades, concern about the environment has brought with it a tremendous increase in recycling in the United States and around the world. For many, it has become not only a civic, but also a moral obligation. Long before our growing levels of waste became an environmental concern, however, recycling was a part of everyday life for many Americans, and for a variety of reasons. From rural peddlers who traded kitchen goods for scrap metal to urban children who gathered rags in exchange for coal, individuals have been finding ways to reuse discarded materials for hundreds of years.
In Cash for Your Trash, Carl A. Zimring provides a fascinating history of scrap recycling, from colonial times to the present. Moving beyond the environmental developments that have shaped modern recycling enterprises, Zimring offers a unique cultural and economic portrait of the private businesses that made large-scale recycling possible. Because it was particularly common for immigrants to own or operate a scrap business in the nineteenth century, the history of the industry reveals much about ethnic relationships and inequalities in American cities. Readers are introduced to the scrapworkers, brokers, and entrepreneurs who, like the materials they handled, were often marginalized.
Integrating findings from archival, industrial, and demographic records, Cash for Your Trash demonstrates that over the years recycling has served purposes far beyond environmental protection. Its history and evolution reveals notions of Americanism, the immigrant experience, and the development of small business in this country.
Book News Annotation:
There live among us those whose childhood memories include gathering rags from household bins and the street and trading them for coal. There are many more others whose photo albums include pictures of their forebears' scrap businesses. The history of scrap recycling in America includes stories of colonial survival, settler thrift, immigration, entrepreneurship and marginalization. Zimring explains the importance of recycling in America long before it became trendy to keep several sets of garbage cans in the kitchen, including the efforts by the newly-arrived to take advantage of America's habit of throwing itself away and the significant efforts to win the war through rubber and metal recycling. The photos included are both informative and poignant. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In Cash for Your Trash, Carl A. Zimring provides a fascinating history of scrap recycling, from colonial times to the present. Integrating findings from archival, industrial, and demographic records, and moving beyond the environmental developments that have shaped modern recycling enterprises, Zimring offers a unique cultural and economic portrait of the private businesses that made large-scale recycling possible.
About the Author
CARL A. ZIMRING is a visiting assistant professor of history at Oberlin College. He received his Ph.D. in 2002 from Carnegie Mellon University.
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