The April 5 episode of Gastropod, a biweekly podcast that looks at food through the lens of science and history, takes a deep dive into all things food waste. Nora Goldstein of BioCycle was asked to paint the landscape of food waste generation and recycling in the U.S. as part of the episode, “Black Gold: The Future of Food …. We Throw Away.” Co-hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley did a terrific job of capturing the tensions and opportunities that are the reality for both organics recyclers and policy makers. As they note in the introduction, “Our ancestors knew exactly what to do with food waste; the earliest descriptions of composting were written on clay tablets more than 4,000 years ago. So why is it so hard for us to keep food waste out of landfills?”
As part of their research, Graber toured Waste Management’s CORe food waste preprocessing facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts and the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District where the slurried food waste is codigested, while Twilley toured Athens Services’ American Organics composting site in Victorville, California, which processes food and green waste. They bring the essence of these facilities to life without the aid of video footage — a refreshing option to learn with our ears and not our eyes!
In addition to Goldstein, others interviewed for the podcast include: Lily Pollans, an assistant professor at Hunter College and author of Resisting Garbage: The Politics of Waste Management in American Cities; Rachel Wagoner, director of CalRecycle, California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery; Keith Churchill, director of organics at Athens Services; Jamie Ecker, Waste Management’s director of organics project management and technology, and Konrad Novakowski, manager of the CORe facility; and Cheri Cousens, executive director of the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District.
Gastropod is part of the Vox Media Podcast Network, in partnership with Eater. Graber — an award-winning radio producer and print reporter — and Twilley — co-author of Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine, and a regular contributor to The New Yorker — met in 2013, as members of the inaugural group of University of California Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellows, overseen by Michael Pollan and Malia Wollan. A year later, they decided to join forces to produce Gastropod.