Talk trash with Elizabeth Royte author of Garbage Land

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

 Science and nature writer visits UAA to discuss her new book about trash

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Elizabeth Royte, author of Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, will visit UAA to show us what really happens to the things we throw away. Join UAA in welcoming Elizabeth Royte on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union.

Garbage Land is recognized as a New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2005 and a Washington Post Book World Best Books of the Year. The author takes readers on a quest for the resting places of her garbage, featuring chapters on recycling, waste sites, sewage treatment plants, landfills, incinerators and composting.

In her book, Royte points out some staggering statistics. More Americans recycle than vote, and making one pound of sellable product generates 32 pounds of waste. According to reviews, the book shares the stories of an "odor chemist who explains why trash smells bad; garbage fairies and recycling gurus; 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 recycles human waste."

Through her book, Royte seeks to combat the dangers of the out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude that Americans have toward their garbage. Royte reminds us that the decisions we make about consumption and waste have a very real impact, and unless changes are made, that waste could potentially be with us for years to come - in our air, our water and our food.

When asked why she chose to write about garbage, Royte responded, "I've 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 it-to 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 don't flush till you must!"

Elizabeth Royte's work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, National Geographic, Outside, Smithsonian and The New Yorker. Her book, The Tapir's Morning Bath: Solving the Mysteries of the Tropical Rain Forest, was a New York Times Notable Book for 2001. In addition, she is a former Alicia Patterson Foundation fellow.

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