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The Wisdom of Garbage

Researchers are digging into heaps of discarded food to uncover clues about why we throw so much of it away—and how cities can cut the waste.
Science is great and gross! Researchers sort through bags of garbage collected in Manhattan
Science is great and gross! Researchers sort through bags of garbage collected in ManhattanJessica Leigh Hester/CityLab

This post is part of a CityLab series on wastelands, and what we squander, discard, and fritter away.

Clumps of congealed pasta tumble out of tangled plastic bags, the noodles gone gray and fuzzy around the edges. In a loading dock a few blocks from Manhattan’s Union Square, bags of garbage spew their contents across white plastic folding tables littered with desiccated orange peels, egg shells, and the occasional shard of glass.