Total Garbage

Total Garbage dives into the messy truth about trash, garbage, waste, and our world—it’s a fact-filled and fascinating illustrated middle grade environmental read!

Trash has been part of human societies since the beginning. It seems like the inevitable end to the process of making and using things—but why?

In this fascinating account of the waste we make, we’ll wade into the muck of history and explore present-day STEM innovations to answer these important questions:

What is garbage?
Where does our garbage come from?
Why do we make so much garbage?
Where does our garbage go?
What can we learn from our garbage?
How bad is our garbage problem?
How can we do better?

Rebecca Donnelly tackles the extraordinary, the icky, and the everyday, helping us see how our choices, personal and societal, impact our world and our planet—and encouraging us make a change.


“clear, engaging writing. . . [and] whimsical, informative, detailed teal-tone line drawings add to a captivating and important book. . . A fact-filled and fascinating dumpster dive of a book.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“In this accessible overview of garbage, Donnelly’s trash talk supports an appealing conversational narrative…This thorough and thoughtful treatment allows readers to understand the many complicated issues and possibly generate their own individual solutions. Here, Donnelly has turned trash into readers’ treasure.“–The Horn Book, starred review

“this book makes garbage fun to read about and is a great choice for browsable nonfiction shelves and curricular tie-ins” —School Library Journal

This guide to garbage takes a rounded approach to its topic, offering readers eye-opening statistics and facts about the world’s waste problem along with a dash of science and historical and social contexts. Donnelly’s engaging tone and Hendrix’s cartoon spot art lend a welcome breeziness…Donnelly offers readers solid advice on reducing and responsibly disposing of their trash while maintaining hope for a cleaner future.” —Booklist

“Despite the seriousness of the world’s garbage predicament, the text’s message remains one of encouragement, offering creative examples of different communities’ solutions and urging readers not to give up hope.”–Publishers Weekly