Environmental and Planning D has published a new article by David Evans entitled, “Binning, gifting and recovery: the conduits of disposal in household food consumption.”
This paper explores the movements and placings that work to configure food as waste. At issue here—following the work of Nicky Gregson, Kevin Hetherington, and Rolland Munro—are the multiple conduits that exist for ‘moving things along’ and the idea that consumption research needs to move beyond the unfortunate conjunction of disposal and waste. I suggest that the disposal of surplus food is enacted via a graduated process in which it first enters a ‘gap’ where ambiguities and anxieties surrounding its residual value and onward trajectory are addressed. Drawing on ethnographic examples, I explore the shifting contours and gradients that reduce the possibilities for disposing of food through conduits in which it can be handed down, handed around, or otherwise saved from wastage. I also unpack the overwhelming tendency for surplus food to be cast as ‘excess’ and placed in conduits—typically the bin—that connect it to the waste stream. Crucially, it is suggested that food is a specific genre of material culture and that this underpins the normativity of its binning alongside the attendant prevention of its recirculation or recovery. To conclude, I reflect on the broader implications of this analysis for understandings of consumption, disposal, and waste.
Keywords: food waste, consumption, disposal, divestment, material culture