Urban Omnibus, a project of the Architectural League of New York, has a fantastic series of blog posts and videos out called City of Systems. The final chapter, Waste Removal, came out two months ago, though I hadn’t seen it until today. Thanks, Annie, for posting it to the the Facebook page. The video features an interview with trashie icon Elizabeth Royte, who gives a brief history of solid waste management in New York and shares what motivated her to write Garbage Land, a must-read for anyone interested in trash. Back in 2007, Royte was the first author in a week-long series of author interviews we featured here called Literary Trash. Check out that interview here. Might be time to revive the theme.
Posts Tagged ‘Garbage Land’
Elizabeth Royte covers the “Zero-Waste Zealots” in the trashy new issue of MoJo.
I’ve been getting an eyeful of lingerie made of trash by keeping up with fellow garbloggers Little Shiva over at Visible Trash and Ruby Re-Usable of Olympia Dumpster Divers who each highlighted this recent Wall Street Journal article. Thought I’d share:
This image of a fabulous number in Tab tabs by eco-artist Ingrid Goldbloom Bloch was ripped from the WSJ article.
And Ruby herself constructed this wonderous wonder bra. For more on Ruby’s work, check out the Trashtastic Tuesday Q & A she graciously granted everydaytrash back in ’07.
For more on the fun and exciting world of garblogging, come check out my talk at the Princeton Public Library at 4pm today, part of the Princeton Environmental Film Festival. The trashy lineup includes my talk and a trashy film screening, all opening acts for that trailblazing trashie, Elizabeth Royte. Any readers out there from Jersey? Hope to see you at the library this afternoon. Everyone else stay tuned for the recap.
UPDATE: Tits and trash are in the air. Just found this pic of a brassiere planter to raise awareness of, you guessed it, breast cancer on Esther’s blog over at Je me recycle.
Brooklynites, have I got a Friday night suggestion for you: Garbageland author Elizabeth Royte is reading from her new book at the Community Book Store in Park Slope! Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It is the title and 7:30 is the time. Expect to laugh and learn from the absurdity. Those far from the better borough can go out and get the book from a local bookshop.
A friend in public radio tipped me off to Elizabeth Royte and her fantastic chronicle of trash, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, this past summer after talking to Royte for a show about trash and the law. I bought the book the next day and later met Royte at the Brooklyn Book Fest, where she was reading from her newly released paperback edition. I introduced myself and asked if she’d be willing to be interviewed for everyday trash. “Sure,” she said, adding [something along the lines of], “but I read on your blog that you’re still reading my book, so wait to see if you like it.”
Outed as not yet having finished Garbage Land, but thrilled that a genuine trash reporter had not only heard of but read everyday trash, I filed away the idea of an interview until…author’s week! What better way to kick of a week of interviews than with the Garbage Lady herself?
everydaytrash: Now that you’ve finished your book, do you still research the subject of garbage? Any recent excursions/adventures?
Elizabeth Royte: I try to keep up with garbage news through various media (including yours) [editor's note: Royte is an occasional and much appreciated tipster to everyday trash], and I go around talking on college campuses about consumption and waste. I was recently invited by a friendly engineer to tour his landfill in Anchorage, but my plane left too early for a visit. Since Garbage Land came out, I’ve written magazine stories about the Katrina cleanup, about corn-based plastics, and waste from pharmaceuticals and personal-care products in our waterways. Oh, and I recently stayed at a zero-waste hotel in Boulder – that was kind of neat. I can’t seem to get away from the topic!
everydaytrash: Your book focuses on the way New York deals with trash. What are some other cities whose creative waste solutions you admire?
Royte: I admire what San Francisco is doing with their zero waste initiative, particularly their composting program. Boulder signed a zero waste resolution last year and is investigating composting options, and now Seattle, which has an excellent curbside program, has started fining residents for putting anything recyclable into the regular trash. It shows they take this seriously. (New York City fines residents for recycling improperly, but it doesn’t seem to be that hard-nosed about it – perhaps recognizing that the public is still pretty confused about our recycling rules.)
everydaytrash: In your book, you use your own household waste as an example of the amount we throw away and what a struggle it can be to reduce that waste. Are you still hyper-sconscious of your own trash?
Royte: I’m still hyperconscious, but I’m not nearly as conscientious as I was when I was sorting and weighing my trash. I’m lazier about getting small pieces of paper – shopping lists, receipts, blow-in cards from magazines–into my paper recycling pile (which is ten steps away and outside my apartment door). But I’m still composting.
everydaytrash: From a bigger picture perspective, are there lobbying or legislative initiatives out there that people should look out for? Is garbage a voting issue or should it be?
Royte: Yes! Mayoral elections in New York have swung on garbage issues. People _should_ be aware of where their garbage is going and have some say in how it’s handled, how their tax dollars are spent. New York City spends over a billion dollars a year collecting and disposing of waste. And yes, all Americans should be pushing for legislation that requires manufacturers of electronic waste to take responsibility for their products’ end-of-life, to recycle this stuff responsibly. Computers are hazardous waste in a landfill. We should be pushing for bottle bills, for composting programs, and for bans that keep yard waste (leaves and grass clippings) out of landfills, where it generates leachate and methane. I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
everydaytrash: Has writing a book about trash earned you any strange nicknames?
Royte: The garbage girl. Or lady.
This will be my last African trash post for a while, or at least the last anecdote from Malawi that I post lest you start thinking the focus of this trash blog has become way too narrow, wonky and/or new agey. Never fear. I actually didn’t return with as many trash stories as I had anticipated for two possible reasons. One, I was working the whole time in my non-trash-related capacity as a nonprofiteer and two, (to state the screamingly obvious) people don’t throw much away in Africa.
I didn’t even see a trash fire, though I looked for them. A couple of times I saw smoke in the distance, but when I asked, the people around me explained that the dry season was ending and they were burning back the fields to prepare them for the pre-rainy season planting.
Most of what I saw were stories of zero waste and recycling. While sitting in front of Ivy’s convenience shack near the road block just south of Kande Beach, I watched a tailor appear out of nowhere and set up his sewing machine on the porch. He pulled out a bag of rags and started piecing them together, remaking old shirts into patchwork swaths of fabric to become new clothing or mending smaller tears in blouses and pants to make them good as new.
The whir of the tailor’s machine lay a pleasant track of ambiant sound beneath the layered murmors of children playing in the dirt road, women chatting while shopping for maize, men gossiping with the tailor and chatting up the women and the forestry worker from the road block coming by to charge his cell phone. I was reading Garbage Land, starting it really, and had just come to the part where the author is describing her quest to produce less waste than the average American. In this chapter, she guiltily throws away old clothes because she already has too many rags and has no other use for the battered cloth.
And then I had one of those useless Western moments that feel like epiphanies, but are really just recognizing the obvious for the first time.
Yes, I thought, we do throw too much away and that would never happen here. What I should do about this sad fact, remains a mystery. Or rather a challenge. One I hope to explore tangibly here–back amidst the excess of America–with this blog.
The folks at Justice Talking, the NPR news magazine that examines global issues through a legal lens, took a long, hard look at trash this week. Of particular note are a liberal-Libertarian debate on whether to mandate or pay people to recycle and commentary from a trash lawyer. Check out the program’s website for an interview with trashie author Elizabeth Royte on exporting and reducing trash, lessons from Colorado on defining and building a “zero waste” community and a fantastic sidebar of recommended reading.
From the promotional website of the very next book I plan to read:
“In Garbage Land, acclaimed science writer Elizabeth Royte leads us on the wild adventure that begins once our trash hits the bottom of the can. Along the way, we meet an odor chemist who explains why trash smells so bad; garbage fairies and recycling gurus; neighbors of massive waste dumps; CEOs making fortunes by encouraging waste or encouraging recycling–often both at the same time; scientists trying to revive our most polluted places; fertilizer fanatics and adventurers who kayak among sewage; paper people, steel people, aluminum people, plastic people, and even a guy who swears by recycling human waste. With a wink and a nod and a tightly clasped nose, Royte takes us on a bizarre cultural tour through slime, stench, and heat-in other words, through the back end of our ever-more supersized lifestyles.”