Editorial: Waste Not

Nora Goldstein, BioCycle

Nora Goldstein
BioCycle April 2013, Vol. 54, No. 4, p. 4

Many years ago at a BioCycle Conference, there was a presenter who worked for a major food processing and manufacturing company. His title was “By-Products Manager.” But his responsibilities were very similar to other speakers at the conference whose titles were solid waste manager. At the time, we were so impressed with the foresight of the company to not name the outputs not going into its core products as waste.

In general, food processors have always tried to use as much of their residuals stream as they can, especially when those materials still have nutrients and/or fertilizer value. This reality always conjures up the expression “use everything but the squeal.” I just Googled that expression, and learned that the term, which dates from about the 1860s and is still used, was coined at hog packing houses to indicate that almost nothing of the animal goes to waste.

In so many ways, “everything but the squeal” applies to the editorial mission of BioCycle, which hasn’t changed in our 54 years of publishing. Stated founding Editor Jerome Goldstein in the Premier Issue (Spring 1960): “We are publishers and editors thoroughly convinced that there is a need to conserve this country’s as well as the world’s natural resources. We believe that converting municipal and industrial organic wastes into useful products would be an effective step forward in a long-range conservation program.”

Thousands of article and news items later, we still believe that. And thankfully, so do many others. Using everything but the squeal isn’t happening because there is a landfill disposal shortage or a sudden surge in public outcry to combat climate change. It is happening because there is demand for those organic “wastes”  — as an input for new products, as a tool to replenish soils, as a source of renewable energy and fuels.

Which brings us to this month’s cover story (see page 20), and another expression — “waste not.” Sean Clark, who teaches and directs the educational farm at Berea College in Kentucky, emailed us in January to ask if we were interested in an article about food waste recycling and reuse in Asheville, North Carolina, and the entrepreneurs who are leading these creative endeavors. Sean was on sabbatical leave in Asheville, volunteering with a local agriculture project supported by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. He described Asheville’s thriving local food scene and the businesses that fuel it. He wanted to focus on the backside of “foodtopia” and the people and enterprises who take the organic waste streams from Asheville’s vibrant culinary scene and turn them into new value-added products. Our response was a hearty yes!

While working on the issue cover, we struggled with the appropriate words to succinctly describe what is going on in Asheville. The first breakthrough was a play on the words in the nursery rhyme, “Rub-A-Dub-Dub,” with the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. “Waste Not” followed shortly thereafter. I looked up the phrase, and clicked on the website, www.phrases.org.uk.  Here’s what we learned: “Waste not, want not. The less we waste, the less we lack in the future. The proverb has been traced back to 1772, and is first cited in the United States in the 1932 ‘Topper Takes a Trip’ by T. Smith.” Call it what you want, but the bottom line, as Jerry said in his 1960 editorial, is this: It’s a long-term conservation program.

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