MLA Platinum Award Press Release

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

Should you use paper or plastic bags at the supermarket, throw that used tissue in the trash or flush it? Is recycling worth it? Elizabeth Royte answers all these questions and more in a short Q&A about her book 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" articles
  • 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 $39 for a year or $12 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Little Gods
    Little Gods
    by Meng Jin
    Little Gods, Meng Jin's intricate, emotionally intelligent debut, opens with a scene in which ...
  • Book Jacket: The Truants
    The Truants
    by Kate Weinberg
    The Truants opens with Jess Walker, a first-year university student in Norfolk, England, ...
  • Book Jacket: The End of the Ocean
    The End of the Ocean
    by Maja Lunde
    In The History of Bees, her debut novel for adults, internationally bestselling Norwegian writer ...
  • Book Jacket: Heart of Junk
    Heart of Junk
    by Luke Geddes
    In Luke Geddes' debut novel, The Heart of America is the largest year-round antique mall in Kansas, ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Cartier's Hope
    by M. J. Rose

    A Gilded Age gem of ambition & betrayal from the author of New York Times bestseller, Tiffany Blues.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    American Dirt
    by Jeanine Cummins

    A new American classic, and the first book to ever score a perfect 5-stars in BookBrowse's early reader program!
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Father of Lions
by Louise Callaghan

A true-to-life narrative of one man's remarkable quest to save the Mosul Zoo.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Sounds Like Titanic

"The definition of an overdeliver." —Vox

"A tricky, unnerving, consistently fascinating memoir."
Kirkus, starred review

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A F I Need I A F I

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.