Trena's Reviews > Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash

Garbage Land by Elizabeth Royte
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's review
Jan 03, 2009

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Recommended to Trena by: random OK Cupid profile
Read in May, 2010

Landfills worry me. I mean, it just can't really work to throw all kinds of toxic whatever into a hole in the ground and expect it to be OK. Elizabeth Royte went on a journey to find out what happens to the stuff she bags up and puts at the curb.

The book explores landfill-bound garbage, recycling facilities, and sewage; I appreciated the breadth, although it did mean that there weren't as many details about each item as I might hope. Still, the book is comprehensive and provides a garbage-bag's-eye view of what happens.

I was encouraged to read the recycling sections. I have never really researched recycling much, and had a vague idea that it might not be as green as one hopes in terms of the kind of processing it takes to get materials back into a useable state. Here is where more information on the various ways in which recycled plastic is processed would have been appreciated. But in terms of paper and the plastic recycling operations she covered (not much on glass, as Royte's glass is not recycled by NYC), it sounds like it really is a good thing.

As with pretty much every book/article I have read by everyone who has gotten in depth with garbage issues, Royte concludes that consumer changes (reduce, reuse, recycle) will do practically nothing to ameliorate the environmental effects of waste, because such a large proportion (estimated at 95%) of garbage is produced pre-consumer and the change needs to come at the producer end.

I didn't find Royte as charming as she fancies herself, and the "New Yorker's View of the World" perspective was a little cloying, so this book gets only three stars. Still worth the read if it interests you.

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message 1: by Grace (new)

Grace I toured a landfill when I was a kid, and I recently toured our local sewage treatment plant w/ my kid. I feel better about both, because I see the precautions taken. We know so much more about the proper way to operate a landfill now. Think what happened before we knew to put down clay linings.

Glass, aluminum and steel recycling are well covered elsewhere. We save so much energy when recycling those, vs making/purifying them from raw materials.

Landfills are also as old as mankind. Archeologists have uncovered garbage heaps everywhere humans have ever lived.

One thing that bothers me is triclosan.

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