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Garbage Land


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Royte (The Tapir's Morning Bath) reminds us that what we dispose of is a window on our culture and consumption habits. Determined to follow the path of household trash, sewage, and recyclables, she began by visiting the New York City Department of Sanitation (she lives in Brooklyn) and accompanying sanitation workers on their routes. In the course of tracking the garbage to landfills, incinerators, and sewage and recycling facilities, she discovered that America disposes of 369 million tons of municipal waste annually-which generates over $50 billion a year in revenue. She explains the many facets of garbage disposal, what determines the location of a landfill, and the array of disposal and processing alternatives. She also raises serious questions about garbage disposal and its impact on public health. The upbeat views of garbage workers who see their roles as performing a vital service are particularly revealing. Royte's exploration of the economic, territorial, and ecological perspectives of garbage disposal adds up to a fascinating trail of trash. Recommended for all who throw things away.-Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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. Agent, Heather Shroder. (July 13) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

""By turns comic and poetic, the book delivers the pleasures of a long, meandering excursion, in which the act of observing is its own reward."

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