Waste work in the sustainability economy: Transforming values of biological waste

Waste values - projects

Primary investigator: Professor Tora Holmberg (Uppsala University)

Collaborators: Professor Claes-Fredrik Helgesson (Uppsala University), Professor Malin Ideland (Malmö University), Dr Sebastian Abrahamsson, Dr Björn Wallsten

Funding: Funded by the Swedish Research Council 2018-2020 (dnr. 2017-02142)

Project description: Waste, including bio-waste, inhabits a paradoxical position. On the one hand, due to problematic consumption practices, we throw away too much. On the other hand, “waste workers” transform these unwanted bi-products of consumption, into valuable goods: bio-fuel and other sources of energy, top soil, and fertilizers. Thus, in terms of biodegradable and combustible waste, we are sometimes facing a surplus and sometimes lack and for example, national and international trading in waste is becoming normalized. The current situation implies a conflict between value orders, and this project investigates how waste and values are produced and handled in practice by waste workers, focusing in particular on practical management and processes of transformations regarding non-household food waste and waste water.

The aim of this project is to shed light on the structural paradoxes of waste management in the green economy by looking at the concrete practices of waste transformation. The project addresses the ways in which waste is handled from deposits to recycling and consumption and new deposits. By way of ethnography and interviews in three Swedish cities the project uses the method of “trash-tracing”, following transformations of waste, work, and values. The project will deepen our understanding of the role of culture as well as market effects in the case of waste work.

Key words: Waste water, food waste, garbage, bio gas, deposit, fertilizer

Food Waste In Denmark and Sweden - Understanding Household Consumption Practices to develop Sustainable Food Care

Primary investigator: Sebastian Abrahamsson (Copenhagen University)

Funding: EUC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships (2016-2018) Funded by HORIZON 2020-EU.1.3.2

Project description: Globally, a startling amount of food is being wasted. This is costly in financial and environmental terms. Much of this wasting occurs in the trajectory from farm to shelf. However consumers, especially those living in wealthier regions of the world, also throw away considerable amounts of food. Based on the alarming numbers reported in statistical research on food waste, campaigns and public policy is being developed to change consumer behaviour. However, much of current food waste research, campaigning and policy is not based on any actual knowledge of what consumers do. How do ‘ordinary consumers’ actually go about buying and then using and/or wasting food? Which daily life tinkering techniques have they invented? And how do societal and technological infrastructures enable or disable food waste avoidance?

The research project studied how consumers handle their food. Mixed methods were to comparatively study online anti-wasting campaigns/communities and household practices in two Danish and two Swedish cities. In the process current understandings of food waste were challenged by: (1) combining a focus on wasting practices and 2) understanding the perishable nature of food; (3) highlighting the techniques that consumers use to avoid wasting by caring for it; and (4) exploring how people balance sustainable food care with other hopes and daily life demands.

By fleshing out the concepts of timing, caring and negotiating the project developed an original theoretical repertoire for understanding food wasting.

Key words: Food waste, care, households, consumption

Last modified: 2021-04-14