Elizabeth Royte has written for The New York Times magazine, Harpers, National Geographic, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Outside, Smithsonian, and other national magazines. Her work is included in The Best American Science Writing 2004 (Ecco/HarperCollins), the environmental omnibus Naked (FourWallsEightWindows), and Outside magazine's Why Moths Hate Thomas Edison (W.W. Norton & Company). A former Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow, Royte is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review, a contributing editor for OnEarth, and a correspondent for Outside magazine. She is the author of The Tapir's Morning Bath: Solving the Mysteries of the Tropical Rain Forest, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 2001; Garbage Land, and Bottlemania. Elizabeth Royte lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their daughter.
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An Interview with Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land
Why write about garbage?
Ive 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 itto 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 dont 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 ...
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