Trash Talk: The Persistence of Waste

Everything humans make eventually becomes trash. Considering its ubiquity, we don't think enough about what to do with our trash.

Episode 195 | January 20, 2015

In case you hadn’t noticed, during our short time on Earth we humans have created a lot of stuff. Some of it is life-altering, like the device you’re looking at right now, and some of it is pretty silly, like those plastic, banana-shaped containers made for holding bananas. Regardless of their value, these objects all have one thing in common: one day they will become trash. For all the time we spend creating these wonders, we don’t devote much energy to thinking about what happens when their intended life-cycles run out.

This episode of Distillations traces the history of trash, consumerism, and municipal garbage collection in the United States, and explores what the future holds.

First, reporter Daniel Gross tells us the origin story of kitty litter, an ingenious consumer product that transformed a natural resource straight into trash.

Then we talk with Carl Zimring, an American environmental historian and Associate Professor of Sustainability Studies at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He describes the early days of garbage collection and tells us why we need to start designing for sustainability.


Hosts: Michal Meyer and Bob Kenworthy
Guest: Carl Zimring
Reporter: Daniel Gross
Producer and Editor: Mariel Carr
Music: Cantina Rag, Jackson F. Smith - Free Music ArchiveMoondots and Polka Beams, Podington Bear - Free Music ArchiveLa Giraffa di Yael, A Smile for Timbuctu - Free Music Archive
Additional songs courtesy of the Audio Network