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Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash Paperback – Bargain Price, August 29, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (August 29, 2006)
  • ISBN-10: 031615461X
  • ASIN: B001G60FWA
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,150,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The v-p of a New York City waste transfer station recommends, "You want to solve the garbage problem? Stop eating. Stop living." Indeed, to ponder waste disposal is to confront the very limits of our society. Where does it all go? Most of us are content to shrug off the details—as long as it's out of sight (and smell). Not so journalist Royte, whose book in some ways (including its title) echoes Fast Food Nation. That McDonald's is more immediately engaging a subject doesn't make, say, the massive, defunct Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, N.Y., any less compelling. Royte nicely balances autobiographical elements (where does her Fig Newmans carton end up, anyway?), interviews and fieldwork with more technical research. Her method yields palpable benefits, not least a wealth of vivid refuse-related slang (maggots are known as disco rice). The details unavoidably venture into the nauseating on occasion, and some might find the chemistry of trichloroethane and other toxins a bit dull. As the NIMBY logic of waste disposal forces its practitioners into secrecy, Royte is obliged to engage in some entertainingly furtive skullduggery. All in all, this is a comprehensive, readable foray into a world we'd prefer not to heed—but should.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Royte is a journalist with a nose for the "sordid afterlife" of trash, thoroughly at home in the putrid world of "Coney Island whitefish" (used condoms); "disco rice" (maggots); and—the darling of American consumer culture and the nemesis of waste activists—"Satan's resin" (plastic). Her book takes the form of a quest for the surprising final resting places of her yogurt cups, beer bottles, personal computer, and organic-fig-cookie packaging, and leads to an impassioned attack on overconsumption in America. If Royte does not quite demonstrate the muckraking skills of an Eric Schlosser in "Fast Food Nation," she does expose the feculent underside of our appetite for things and challenges her readers to disprove the resigned assessment of a former New York sanitation commissioner: "In the end, the garbage will win."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author


Elizabeth Royte is the author, most recently, of Bottlemania: How Water Went On Sale and Why We Bought It. Her previous books--Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash and The Tapir's Morning Bath: Solving the Mysteries of the Tropical Rain Forest--were named New York Times Notable Books of the Year in 2005 and 2001. Royte's writing on science and the environment has appeared in Harper's, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, and other national publications. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and a contributing editor for OnEarth. Her work is included in The Best American Science Writing for 2004 and for 2009, the environmental omnibus Naked, and Outside Magazine's Why Moths Hate Thomas Edison. A former Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow and recipient of Bard College's John Dewey Award for Distinguished Public Service, Royte lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their daughter. She blogs, somewhat irregularly, at www.royte.com/blog

Customer Reviews

Lots of facts, lots of statistics, lots of blaming.
K. Wilson
Elizabeth Royte has done a great service by uncovering the truth about how we deal with garbage and other waste.
hdbooth
The book is a good read and makes you look at the contents of your garbage can in a whole different way.
Kris the Bookworm

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on July 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It takes a dedicated person (or a nut!) to spend time with garbage as your companion, but Elizabeth Royte has done just that, and she did so over a period of many months. Her new book, "Garbage Land", is remarkably comprehensive, thoroughly engaging and downright fun.

How many people know the names of their garbagemen? The author certainly does as she relates a time where she did a stint or two picking up garbage with the local "San Men" around her neighborhood in New York. (yes, there are women in the "pick-up" business, too) Ms. Royte duly notes the "rejectamenta" that leaves her home as she includes chapters from recycling, waste sites and sewage treatment plants, to landfills, incinerators and composting. All you've ever wanted to know about garbage and the six degrees of separation thereof, (and many things you've never cared to know) are contained in this gem of a book. To say that she has done her homework may be a bit of an understatement. Sifting through her own household garbage week after week must earn extra points as I know of no one who would ever want to undertake something like that.

While the subject is indeed a fascinating one for her and for those of us who care to read about it, Ms. Royte is surprisingly (and refreshingly) not overly judgmental. Is recycling good, for instance? Well, yes and no, she offers. She introduces differing points of view and largely lets the reader decide. I must be honest and say that there are parts of "Garbage Land" that get heavily bogged down in technical terms and statistics, (which is why it took me a period of several days to get to the end) but the final "product" is as informative a look as one will most likely get these days.

The author is good at giving some astounding facts.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Mary Poplin on July 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book the day it came out and found it so compelling -- and mind curdling -- that I couldn't put it down. I took it home and read it from cover to cover. Royte shows formidable skills as interviewer, detective, researcher and wordsmith. I admire her persistence in getting this story and telling it well. I rate it 5 stars -- right up there with several other page-turning, brilliantly researched exposes -- "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser, "Toxic Sludge is Good for You" by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton and "The Whole Soy Story:The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food" by Kaayla Daniel. I cannot recommend this book enough.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Crocker on July 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Royte's Garbage Land is one woman's journey to find out where her waste goes. She follows her putrescibles to the landfills, her recyclables to recovery facilities, and even tracks her poop all the way to the sewage treatment plant and beyond. She discovers that there are no easy answers and that consuming less is the best answer to the waste problem. The reason that I resonate so strongly with Garbage Land is that since the late `80s my wife and I have been on a quest to reduce, reuse, and recycle to the max [although I participated in the recycling program in Forest Hills, Pennsylvania when I was a teen in the `70s] and have run into many of the problems encountered by Royte. Even though Whittier, California now uses the 3 barrel system [yard waste, recyclables, and trash, with the trash barrel being much smaller than the other two], we still find the level of our trash disconcerting AND we live over the hill from the Puente Hills landfill, now the largest sanitary landfill in the world [enlarging the landfill has been mitigated by setting aside or buying land for parks in the hills, so it hasn't been a total waste]. I agree with the previous reviewer's comparison to Fast Food Nation - the books share a similar feel, although I find this one even lower key in the polemics department. I finished the book over the weekend while I was at a wedding in Mendocino County. The couple was married at the oldest organic winery in the country and their house is equipped with a composting toilet - I ended up feeling like a piker when it came to the 3 R's of waste. Garbage Land is food for thought for anybody thinking about their own impact on the planet.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Glen Helfand on August 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Garbage Land is an entry into that recent non-fiction genre that has brought us books and documentaries like Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me. Each address the inherent flaw of capitalism-- that its tenets are not physicanny or environmentally sustainable-- by looking at universally familiar subjects. While it's possible to avoid imbibing fast food, our culture, and our bodies, makes it virtually impossible not to produce waste. Elizabeth Royte makes the brave move to use her own actions as a catalyst to explore trash as the profit driven phenomenon that it is. Her findings are disturbing-- as far away as we may ship our garbage, it comes back to haunt us in so many ways-- yet the picaresqe, investigative narrative of the long, winding, sometimes heavily secured road to the dump is surprisingly rich and even inspiring. While she makes clear that the problem of trash is bigger than us all (it's in the culturally encouraged habit of consumption), and that we all participate in degrees of detritus denial, Royte manages to affirm the idea that change can begin with one less java jacket in the waste bin.
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