Tasteful waste

Earlier this month, we had a fun food culture class on the topic of waste and edibility. The writing of Mary Douglas on Purity and Danger was useful in order to think about how the definition of ‘waste’ is in fact a social construction which depends on social relations and thus varies from context to context. We looked at the various stages in the cycle from production to consumption where ‘waste’ is created by some, but sometimes turned into food by others. Waste, or ‘dirt’ in the words of Mary Douglas, is ‘matter out of place’. For a thing to become out of place, there needs to be an order with normalities such as, when a food is beyond its expiration date in a supermarket it will be thrown away. Anomaly then is all that does not fit the order (or who order differently). Examples are gleaning practices on agricultural fields, food collection for food banks and dumpster diving in retail waste.

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