Category Archives: Wastefullness

Book Review Essay: The Waste of the World

Writing almost 20 years ago, Nicky Gregson and her research partners claimed that “…(W)aste’s capacity as a theoretical vehicle is immense; like food it is good to think with and through” (Gregson et al., 2005, page 2). In her new book, The Waste of the World, Gregson’s starting point has shifted. Waste remains central, but […]
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Sorting It Out: Sustainability in Higher Education

by Kathy Zhang In May of 2021, I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a combined degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and Art. I joined sustainability efforts on campus as a second-year student, at first emphasizing trash, compost, and recycling. I felt especially passionate about my recycling initiatives at the housing […]
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The Tragedy of the Tragedy of the commons

A Twitter essay by Matto Mildenberger (@mmildenberger)   Something I’ve been meaning to say about The Tragedy of the Commons. Bear with me for a small thread on why our embrace of Hardin is a stain on environmentalism: we’ve let a flawed metaphor by a racist ecologist define environmental thinking for a half century. Hardin’s […]
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Modern Waste is an Economic Strategy

Industry developed disposability through planned obsolescence, single-use items, cheap materials, throw-away packaging, fashion, and conspicuous consumption. American industry designed a shift in values that circulated goods through, rather than into, the consumer realm. The truism that humans are inherently wasteful came into being at a particular time and place, by design.

The Politics of Measurement: Per Capita Waste and Previous Sewage Contamination

By Max Liboiron. Measurements are never mere faithful representations of nature, but have social and political origins and ramifications. In representational theory, measurement is “the correlation of numbers with entities that are not numbers,” a process of transformation, translation, and even interpretation at the level of sampling and gathering data. What is selected for measurement and what is […]
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Trash is a Wicked Problem

By Max Liboiron One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Waste is inherently ambivalent. It is both worthless and the basis for a billion dollar, recession-proof industry, complete with cartels and multinational companies. Disgust with filth both reaffirms our identities and troubles us. But a plethora of contradictory terms and values is not what makes […]
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Tactics of Waste, Dirt and Discard in the Occupy Movement: A Photo Essay

By Max Liboiron It has been one week since the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, September 17, 2012. In celebration, let’s look at the movement through the lens of discard studies. My article, “Tactics of Waste, Dirt and Discard in the Occupy Movement“, has just appeared in Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, […]
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Visual Culture of Food Waste Data: Theaters of Proof

By Max Liboiron A lot of discard issues are about scale. Scale is expressed in functions of measurement or computation, yet scale is more than a quantitative sum. Scale is always relative (“bigger,” “smaller,” “less than,” “twice as much,” “a quarter of”), and therefore relational. So scale is not merely about being big or small. […]
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Capitalism and Socio-Spatial Dialectics of ‘Waste’

Antipode, A Radical Journal of Geography, has just published a special three-article section on the Socio-spatial dialectics of “waste.” The articles follow a Marxist analytical framework and are nestled in a larger discussion of humans and/as “surplus.” Readers will find that authors are not experts of waste and its materialities, stocks and flows, but are […]
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