A new The Atlantic piece!


I wrote another article for The Atlantic this week, on the historical background of the New York bottle deposit, and of course based on my book. I used the Academy Award nominated documentary short Redemption as my starting point here – see the trailer below. It didn’t take long to get the article published this time – I discovered the documentary on Saturday, wrote up the text in the mornings in San Francisco and at Stanford (while still sick), and sent it in.

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Suddenly, reviews!

My book, Making a Green Machine: The Infrastructure of Beverage Container Recycling, came out in June 2011. Upon publication, Rutgers University Press, sent out review copies to all the main academic journals in history of technology, business, and environment. It took more than a year and a half before anything more happened – after all, academic publication moves at glacial speed, and so do reviews. But suddenly, a whole lot of book reviews showed up.

In Environmental History, J. F. M. Clark from University of St. Andrews called my book “an engaging business history”, but argues that I do not engage with the history of environmentalism and make no effort to “assess the broader environmental economics behind glass, aluminum, and plastic.”

In Technology and Culture, Stephen Sambrook at the Centre for Business History at the University of Glasgow characterized my book as a “blending of technological and cultural history with a leavening of business history, … providing insight into the complex relationships between the evolution of national environmental policies and the nexus of business interests, technological development, and everyday environmentalism.”

Most interesting, however, were the four reviews in the H-Environment Roundtable organized by Jake Hamblin. Tim Cooper, Peter Thorsheim, Heike Weber, Carl Zimring provided respectively one scathingly negative and three generally positive reviews. The roundtable format allowed me to write a response to the reviews, which is what generally makes the roundtables so interesting to read. If you want to find out why the one review was so negative, you should read the review – and my response! I can highly recommend not just the review of my book, but also all the other ones (there’s thirteen so far).


Cans Recycled: The Visual Power of Invisible Things

Cans Recycled. Image used with kind permission of Jostein Skeidsvoll

This weekend I visited Lilla Galleriet in Umeå, where photographer Jostein Skeidsvoll opened his exhibit on “Cans Recycled: The Visual Power of Invisible Things”. I saw the advertisement in the newspaper and was intrigued by his description of how he was suddenly captured by the hidden beauty of a crushed beverage can. He had spent the last year taking pictures of crushed empty cans that he had found as litter. I met Jostein at the gallery and it turned out that he was a fellow Norwegian! So we had a long and interesting conversation in Norwegian about beverage container recycling, garbage as art, and on being a Norwegian in Sweden. I bought a print of the picture above – the colors are much more vibrant in the real print. I liked the colors and composition of this particular picture, and also that it was the only one of his pictures where you could see the “Pant” or deposit symbol, indicating that if the can’s original consumer had returned it in a reverse vending machine, he or she would have gotten a 50 öre deposit back and the can would have been recycled to get new life, most likely as a new can. But instead, the can became trash until Jostein saw its beauty and turned it into art. There are many ways to appreciate trash!

My book is now on Amazon!

Reworking my dissertation into a real book, published with a real, international university press, has been a long and sometimes frustrating process, but it is very satisfying to pass all the little milestones leading up to the actual publication. Today I discovered that the book is now listed on Amazon, so it is possible to preorder it here: Making a Green Machine: The Infrastructure of Beverage Container Recycling (I will get a referral bonus if you purchase it through this link!)

One step closer, in other words… The actual publication date is June 20, 2011 – hopefully everything will proceed on schedule. I still need to go through the final page proofs and make an index, which should happen not too long after the new year.