Elizabeth Royte Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

Elizabeth Royte
Photo by Tony Israel

Elizabeth Royte

An interview with Elizabeth Royte

An Interview with Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land

Why write about garbage?
I’ve always wondered whether it was better, environmentally speaking, to throw a used tissue in the toilet or in the trash. And like a lot of people, I wondered where things went, and what became of them, after I threw them 'away.' So I started keeping track of my trash, quantifying it—to learn exactly what I was rejecting. Then I began traveling with my trash. As I learned how far my garbage footprint spread, I tried my utmost to leave a smaller human stain. The tissue, by the way, should go in the toilet. But don’t flush till you must!

What was the most surprising thing you learned while researching the book?
That municipal solid waste – the stuff that comes from you and me, plus the stuff that comes from institutions and businesses – makes up only two percent of the total U.S. waste stream. The remainder, some 12 billion tons a year, is mostly nonhazardous industrial waste, plus mining, agricultural, and hazardous waste.

What were some of the most difficult roadblocks to researching Garbage Land?
It was hard getting just about anyone to answer my phone calls, let alone show me around their landfill. The waste world is insular, and it seems to be particularly suspicious of freelance writers.

What changes can we make in our personal buying habits to cut down on the amount of garbage that we’re accumulating?
Buy less new stuff. When you do buy, consider what kind of trash something will eventually make: is the product and its packaging reusable or recyclable? Will it soon break or become obsolete? Can you repair it? Is it toxic? If you’re talking about food or household products, can you buy them in larger sizes to reduce the amount of packaging per use?

Is recycling worth it?
Making goods from recycled materials, instead of virgin, saves energy, creates less pollution, and cuts down on the extraction of trees, minerals, and fossil fuels. But individual recycling isn’t going to turn things around until more manufacturers use recycled materials, more consumers buy recycled goods, and designers make products that can be more easily recycled. Producers must take environmental and social responsibility for their goods both before they reach consumers, and after.

Paper or Plastic?
If your grocery store takes back plastic bags and actually recycles them into a useful product, go with plastic – it’s lighter to transport. If you recycle paper, go with that. But don’t sweat it: the bags come out nearly equal in lifecycle analyses. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, which makes exhaustive studies of consumers’ environmental impacts, the issues that have the biggest impact on planetary health are transportation, housing, and meat eating.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...
  • Book Jacket: Shotgun Lovesongs
    Shotgun Lovesongs
    by Nickolas Butler
    Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, follows five life-long friends, now in their mid-...
  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

It is among the commonplaces of education that we often first cut off the living root and then try to replace its ...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.