Dear Garbage Man or Why We Shouldn’t Recycle

Happy new year everyone!

I hope you’re all committing to your new years resolutions like going to the gym or recycling.

In lieu of that awful segue, here’s a book about why you SHOULDN’T recycle. Gene Zion wrote Dear Garbage Man in 1957, accompanied with illustrations by Margarey Bloy Graham. Normally I don’t give such an extensive summary of a book but in this case I can’t resist.

garbage man“Stan was a new garbage man. He was happy and excited this spring morning because it was his first day on the truck. In the trash put out the night before in front of ‘Emily’s Hat Shoppe,’ Stan found a horseshoe made of flowers. On the ribbon were the words, ‘Best Luck to Emily.’ Stan liked the name ‘Emily’ so he didn’t throw the horseshoe into the chewer-upper at the back of the truck. He tied it on the front. When people saw the truck, they laughed and said, ‘Look, here comes Emily! Isn’t she pretty?’ Stan felt very pleased and was glad that he had kept the flower horseshoe and ribbon.”

As Stan continues on his route he finds an old bed with broken legs, a bicycle with a flat tire, a sofa with the springs coming out, a cracked mirror, part of a soda fountain, and much more. Pretty soon, Emily becomes so piled high with broken stuff that the garbage men begin to block traffic and cause quite a scene on the street. Cars are honking, bicyclists are yelling, passersby are staring but Stan’s not bothered. The garbage truck driver tries to skip some stops but Stan sees a broken bird cage and a bass drum and stops to save those as well.


Once Stan has collected so much stuff that Emily can barely move and the entire neighbourhood has left their houses to watch the commotion Stan Stops and shouts: “All right folks, help yourselves!” Everyone finds something they want and everyone is very happy.


But when Stan finally gets to the last stop by the river where all the garbage is loaded onto barges he doesn’t have anything to deliver. Oh no! What about the trash the barges pull to fill in swampland so parks and playgrounds can be built?

The next day Stan and his friends board Emily and start their route once more but soon they see that every single thing they gave away the day before is back out on the curb.

“The truck stopped and Stan got off. He walked slowly past the old bicycle, the baby carriage, the lamp and the picture frames. When he got to the bed, he stopped. There was a note tacked to its side. It said, ‘Dear Garbage Man: I’m sorry but the bed was older and more broken than we thought… you’d better give it to Emily. Thanks anyway… A Friend.’ When Stan finished reading, he seemed ready to cry. But suddenly, a big smile brightened his face and he began to drag the bed to the truck. ‘Start the chewer-upper, boys!’ he shouted. ‘All this stuff will fill in lots and lots of swamps!’

Good old Stan the garbage man helping with ecological conservation and creating parks. Oh to live in the fifties.

I hope none of you are too swayed by Zion’s delightfully well written but misguided picture book with fabulously quirky illustrations and continue your recycling resolutions.

Next week I’ll review a more current book so stay tuned!


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