Now in Paperback

“Covers fascinating, stinky terrain.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“A clear-thinking and peppery writer, Rogers presents a galvanizing expose of how we became the planet’s trash monsters.”
–Booklist (starred review)

Named an Editor’s Choice by the New York Times Book Review and a nonfiction choice by The Guardian, Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage is the widely praised debut by journalist and filmmaker Heather Rogers. Said to “read like a thriller” (Library Journal), Gone Tomorrow takes us on an oddly fascinating tour through the underworld of garbage and brings meaning to all that gets discarded.

Eat a take-out meal, buy a pair of shoes, or read a newspaper, and you’re soon faced with a bewildering amount of rubbish. The United States is the planet’s number one producer of trash; each American throws out 4.5 pounds daily. How did we end up with this much waste, and where does it all go? By excavating the history of rubbish handling from the 1800s—an era of garbage-grazing urban hogs and dump-dwelling rag pickers—to the present, with its high- tech “mega-fills” operated by multi-billion-dollar garbage corporations, Rogers answers these questions with a “lively authorial voice” (New York Press), offering a potent argument for change.

Over the past 30 years, worldwide garbage output has exploded, doubling in the U.S. alone. Gone Tomorrow explains that, despite popular wisdom, this torrent of rubbish is not primarily the responsibility of the consumer. In fact, shoppers often have little choice in the wastes they generate. Consider packaging: tossed cans, bottles, boxes and wrappers now take up more than a third of all U.S. landfill space. More prolific today than ever before, packaging is garbage waiting to happen.

Once buried or burned, trash is hardly benign. Landfills, even the most state-of-the-art, are environmental time bombs. They spew greenhouse gases, and leach hazardous chemicals and heavy metals into groundwater and soil. Waste incinerators are no less disastrous. They emit 70% of the world’s dioxin, and pollute the air with toxic particulate matter and a host of gases that cause acid rain.

Gone Tomorrow also explores controversial topics like the politics of recycling and the export of trash to developing countries. Part exposé, part social commentary, Gone Tomorrow traces the connection between modern industrial production, consumer culture, and our disposable lifestyle. Read it and you’ll never think of garbage the same way again.


"This is a book that refuses to be dumb, that investigates the unmentionable and quietly (its voice is gentle) shows how the liberal economy is savaging the entire world. Pass it from hand to hand: it will clear minds."
—John Berger, author of The Shape of a Pocket

“If you’ve ever wondered why our society spits out so much garbage—I know I have!—then read Heather Rogers’s brilliant book. With terrific storytelling she uncovers one of the most invisible but troubling aspects of modern life. Gone Tomorrow cuts to the heart of what ails the planet.”
—Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop

“Out of sight, but, thanks to Heather Rogers, not out of mind. We spend an awful lot of time thinking about getting and spending, and next to none about disposing—this splendidly documented book is just the thing we need.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home and The End of Nature

 “Victor Hugo once wrote that ‘the history of civilization lies in its sewers.’ In this cogent and beautifully written work, Heather Rogers offers a compelling commentary on the state of our contemporary civilization by examining not only how much but what we throw out and where it all ends up. Gone Tomorrow amounts to an imposing brief to take urgent action now to reconstruct our lives around more environmentally sane and, hence, more civilized values.”
—David Harvey, author of The Condition of Postmodernity.


Heather Rogers is a writer, journalist, and filmmaker. Her documentary film Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage (2002) screened in festivals around the globe. Her articles have appeared in Utne Reader, Z Magazine, the Brooklyn Rail, Bad Subjects, Punk Planet, Third Text, and Art and Design. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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