Book Cover

An engineer explains how to make
products less toxic and more sustainable.

In this debut science book,
Goldstein takes readers into the realms of manufacturing and recycling to
explore how things—particularly consumer goods—are made, how the process can be
improved, and what happens when they move into the recycling system. Capsule
portraits of entrepreneurs involved in different aspects of sustainable
manufacturing (a project manager who maintains a database of construction
materials and their ingredients, a distributor of compostable flatware and packaging)
appear throughout. These are woven into a narrative that includes a concise
history of plastics from Bakelite to the present; Nike’s shift toward corporate
social responsibility; and a visit to a steel plant. The book does a
particularly good job explaining the complicated world of recycling, where both
economics and feasibility limit the materials that can be productively broken
down and reused. That section concludes with examples of cutting-edge
techniques that offer new recycling possibilities. Goldstein frequently refers
to earlier works on the subject, showing how sustainable manufacturing has
evolved over the past decade. And she makes a compelling case for its eventual
mainstream viability, drawing connections between lean manufacturing strategies
and a more efficient use of raw materials, for instance. The book is
well-written, with enough detailed information to engage knowledgeable readers
but without technical jargon or minutiae that might overwhelm a novice. The
tone is casual and intimate (“It’s great to have flatware that composts, but
not if it falls apart when we’re using it”), and the author often uses her own
experiences as a source of examples and anecdotes. While the volume maintains
an upbeat perspective, Goldstein acknowledges the challenges of bringing
sustainability to the manufacturing process and offers a candid evaluation of
the effectiveness of each technology discussed. Readers will be left with the
sense that although sustainability is not an easy feature to add to the manufacturing
process, it is indeed possible to do so with both ecological and financial

An engrossing, comprehensive
overview of sustainable manufacturing and recycling and the challenges to
expanding their adoption.

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