Literary Trash, a week of trash authors beginning with Elizabeth Royte


erauthor.jpg 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.


Next up on the Literary Trash lineup is Dominant Wave Theory, a series of photos depicting beach debris by British artist and surfer Andrew Hughes.

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16 Responses to “Literary Trash, a week of trash authors beginning with Elizabeth Royte”

  1. Larry Groff Says:

    Excellent interview with Elizabeth Royte, I enjoyed it very much. I had just finished reading Garbage Land, a fascinating book that needs to get more attention.

    You have an important and impressive blog, hope to make it a regular visit. Good Luck and thanks for putting this together.

  2. kimberly Says:

    Despite the implications of not learning how to truly clean up before and after ourselves, being a garbage maven comes off as a whole lot of fun a whole lot of the time, at least it seems so when listening in on you and Royte. Tackling our trash problem can be fun and glamorous.

    Congratulations on a great start to lit trash week!

  3. everydaytrash Says:

    Wow, what nice praise from you both. Thanks!

  4. Weekly Compactor: Literary Trash Edition « everyday trash Says:

    […] On Monday, journalist Elizabeth Royte caught us up on her environmental reporting since the release … […]

  5. robert Says:

    gentle Reader, if you dare read Garbage Land, the lid half off, beware the untraveled country, from whose bourne no travelor returns! Relax in Garbage Land thou contemplative dusty Spirits! Purchase it in hardcover (I take no comission).

  6. Literary Trash day two, a chat with photographer Andrew Hughes « everydaytrash Says:

    […] artist, blogger and author Andrew Hughes and his book of photographs depicting beach debris from Monday’s featured author, Elizabeth Royte.  While we haven’t met in person, I know Andy to be a generous and […]

  7. » Blog Archive » Composting for the Urban Kitchen Says:

    […] much useful information on composting. The wonderful and ever fascinating everydaytrash blog has a terrific interview with Ms. Royte well worth the […]

  8. Trash talk on January 8th in Princeton « everydaytrash Says:

    […] talk precedes the screening of a trash film which is then followed by legendary trash author, Elizabeth Royte of Garbage Land and Bottlemania […]

  9. Trash talk on January 8th in Princeton | 1800blogger Says:

    […] talk precedes the screening of a trash film which is then followed by legendary trash author, Elizabeth Royte of Garbage Land and Bottlemania […]

  10. Trash talk on January 8th in Princeton | Conservation Blog Says:

    […] talk precedes the screening of a trash film which is then followed by legendary trash author, Elizabeth Royte of Garbage Land and Bottlemania fame. Rating 3.00 out of 5 […]

  11. Tits and Trash « everydaytrash Says:

    […] lineup includes my talk and a trashy film screening, all opening acts for the trailblazing trashie, Elizabeth Royte.  Any readers out there from Jersey?  Hope to see you at the library this afternoon.  Everyone […]

  12. Weekly Compactor « everydaytrash Says:

    […] Jones’ special issue on trash includes an online forum on waste and recycling with trashperts Elizabeth Royte, Eric Lombardi, Annie Leonard and Susan Strasser; […]

  13. Corria Says:

    great post, thanks for providing so much. Keep up the good posts.!

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  15. City of Systems: Waste Removal « everydaytrash Says:

    […] series of author interviews we featured here called Literary Trash. Check out that interview here. Might be time to revive the theme. Share […]

  16. Trashy Valentine’s Day! | everydaytrash Says:

    […] Royte and her book Garbage Land were among my first and favorite discoveries as a garblogger. On Valentine’s day, it seems […]

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