Here Comes the Garbage Barge
Written by: Jonah Winter & Illustrated by: Red Nose Studio
While at the SCBWI conference, I got to hear this book’s publisher speak about the process of bringing it to print. Apparently the book is based on actual events – the 1987 voyage of the Mobro 4000.
Escorted by the tugboat Breaking Dawn, the Mobro 4000 barge set sail on March 22, from Islip, New York carrying 3,168 tons of trash. The plan was to take the garbage to North Caroline where it would be turned into methane. However, while docked at Morehead City, a WRAL-TV news crew, acting on a tip, flew to the coast to investigate. The resulting Action News 5 report, alerted the North Carolina officials who consequently ordered the barge to move on. As the Mobro continued south along the coastline, it encountered further opposition. After being turned away by the Mexican Navy, the Mobro made it as far as Belize. Unable to pass off its undesirable cargo, the Mobro finally returned to New York where it was met with a restraining order, which prevented it from docking. Not until October was the refuse incinerated in Brooklyn, and its ash returned to Islip to be buried.
Though the trip itself turned out to be a complete fiasco, it brought waste management to the forefront of national discussion and it sparked new widespread recycling initiatives. During the next three years, most states passed laws requiring some kind of municipal recycling. The United States went from having about 600 cities with curbside recycling programs to having almost 10,000 (according to wasteage.com).
As if that doesn’t already make the project interesting…
The process behind the illustrations adds another dimension to the story’s message. Each image is actually a photograph of a small-scale model designed and created by the artist. Working as a sculptor rather than a draftsman, the artist built his characters around flexible wire armatures and modeled their features with clay. Everything in their tiny environments was crafted either out of litter from the streets or objects found in the artist’s studio.
For more about the book see: Red Nose Studio