Saturday 18 April 2009

Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte

Published by Little Brown and Company an imprint of Hachette Book Group

Do you ever find yourself wondering what happens to your garbage? The author - Elizabeth Royte - decides to track the weekly journey of the garbage from her home. What follows is an in depth account of trips to landfills, recycling centers, sewage treatment centers, scrap metal centers and much, much more. There are some parts that are a little 'squicky' like the subject of composting and 'disco rice' (maggots) or while doing cleanups and encountering 'Coney Island whitefish' (used condoms). I think the biggest gross factor for me was the subject of Biosolids. I am completely in awe of the author and her determination to leave no stone unturned.

The detail in this book is both incredible and fascinating. To quote a san man (garbage collector) - 'People think there is a garbage fairy. You put it on the curb and pffft, its gone. They don’t have a clue'. This totally applies to me. I didn't even think much about what happens after I drop off my recyclables at the local depot so it was wonderful to get such a great education on the subject. I found myself frequently quoting parts of the book to my husband as I learned new facts and it even raised my own curiosity about landfills here in Canada since the book is based in the USA. I will definitely need to see if I can find a Canadian book about trash.

What did I like most about this book? It was most probably the facts and figures that are sprinkled throughout the narrative. I found them easy to understand and the author clearly put a lot of time and effort into making sure the book was not only easy to comprehend but that it would keep the reader interested also. I couldn't put this title down and read it in about a day and a half. I especially liked the sprinklings of garbage history. Another thing I liked was that unlike so many books which tell a reader what they need to be doing differently in their life, this author provides many different thoughts and ideas in such a friendly manner that the reader can't help but be enthused about garbage and how to maybe handle it a little differently in their own way. I especially love that the book covers both the pros and cons of recycling and that it encourages the reader to consider cutting down on the garbage at the origin - being more aware of purchases.

I loved one of the ideas that was thrown around by a student in the book, during a recycling meeting. The student in question asked about making the original producers more responsible. Someone replied that they wouldn't agree to 'sticking it to the companies' but it really got me thinking and in an era where nothing is really built to last, this could really be a viable option. If companies were forced to take back the packaging, damaged goods and so on and had to handle the financial responsibility for disposal then surely they would be encouraged to go back to building things that last longer, or cut down on the endless - and oftentimes unnecessarily excessive packaging. It sounds good to me.

This was a brilliantly written and greatly informative read that I would recommend to anyone. You can get an idea about things you can do to make a difference at and you can learn even more about the book too.


Jeane said...

I'm always curious about the behind-scenes of things like this, but reading all about how trash is processed might be a bit too icky for me (although I do compost in my backyard).

Charlene Martel said...

I used to compost at one of our previous homes. Sadly none of our more recent homes had composters and they don't allow them. I can't wait until we buy our own home on retirement.

Nur said...

You have a very informative blog about the environment. I also find a similar book review of Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte at