Book Review (sort of): Where Does the Garbage Go?

My wife discovered our 3-year-old daughter pulling facial tissue from a box and laying it on the carpet in her room. A Playmobil recycling truck was next to her, also filled with tissue.

Mom: "Don’t pull out any more tissues unless you’re going to use them for your nose."
Daughter: "But Mama, I’m making a landfill. You have to put down a layer (of dirt), and then garbage and then another layer."

My wife came to me flabbergasted, and asked, "How do you respond to that?"

I, of course, grabbed my camera. If I ask Little Miss to smile, she forcibly grimaces. If I ask her to laugh, well, you can see for yourself…

Photo of my daughter sitting on her floor with her recycling truck, a box of tissues, some tissues laid out on the floor and some tissues inside the truck. She is laughing.

I know you have questions.

First, why is a recycling truck being treated as a garbage truck? Well, we don’t have curbside recycling, so this is a garbage truck.

Second, if the tissue represents dirt, why is there tissue inside the garbage truck? It’s bedding for the garbage collectors. When my Little Miss finishes playing with the truck, the little men need someplace to sleep.

Cover of the book Where Does My Garbage Go?, depicting several children carrying recycling bins to a street curb. Third, why does a 3-year-old know that landfills are composed of layers of waste sandwiched between layers of dirt? …because we read her a picture book: Where Does the Garbage Go? by Randy Chewning.

The book is intended for ages 5 to 9 and is primarily instructional, rather than based on a story. The information inside is "detailed, accurate and thorough" in the words of my mother who is visiting this week. She is a retired waste management specialist.

It’s about the last book you want to read a toddler at bedtime, but we picked it up a few months ago at a garage sale, and we give all new books at least one spin at bedtime.

The book depicts:

  1. Curbside garbage collection
  2. Dumping at a landfill
  3. Spreading of the waste with bulldozers
  4. Layering of waste and dirt in the landfill
  5. A pie chart of what is inside our landfills
  6. How an incinerator burns waste
  7. An introduction to recycling
  8. How paper, aluminum and glass are recycled in factories
  9. A few basic tips about reducing waste when at the grocery store

Yes, this is heady material for a toddler. It puts me to sleep, but our daughter asks for it again and again. She has more than 200 books (Garage sales people! Wake up to 25 cent books!) and has asked for this story at least 10 times, which in our household ranks it on our Ten Most Popular list.

My daughter’s love affair with garbage began sometime after she learned to walk and could look out our front window by herself. She became fascinated by the garbage truck that visits us every week.

Then we began borrowing Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha from the public library. It’s a great, simple story for kids fascinated by garbage trucks.

We also visit a recycling center once a week with our daughter. She naturally became interested in what we do there.

Last Christmas, Grandma Garbage gave our daughter the Playmobil recycling truck as a gift. Talk about injustices in this world. Our doll house now has curbside recycling pick-up every day!

Grandma is also a vermiculture specialist, so I expect by our daughter’s fourth birthday we’ll have some pet worms.

Does anyone have a eco-conscious children’s book recommendation?

We own The Great Trash Bash by Loreen Leedy, but it attempts to tell a story be having the characters be heavily educational in their words and deeds. It feels a bit forced.

I’d like to see subtle stories that aren’t about living green, but discreetly incorporate those type of principles into the storyline. You know, not "The Bernstein Bears Learn to Recycle," but instead "The Bernstein Bears go Trick-or-Treating" and happen to use pillowcases as treat bags instead of plastic. That sort of thing.


2 Responses to “Book Review (sort of): Where Does the Garbage Go?”

  1. Bev says:


    November 1st, 2007 at 9:43 am

  2. AZ says:

    My toddler (just turned 2) has loved watching the garbage pick-up since she was at least 18 months old. We recently pulled out a book her brother used to love, “I Stink”,(its also fun as an alphabet book) and she also has it in heavy rotation. Her big brother used to love the garbage and recylcling truck too-but at 8, he’s a bit jaded now. The neat thing where we live (Montreal) is that the trucks are manually loaded, so there really are people slinging the garbage bags, when its warm we go outside to watch and say hi! When we were in San Jose, CA it was fun to see the trucks use their claws to pick up the bins, but I like the old-fashioned way.

    November 2nd, 2007 at 10:48 am

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