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Ontologies of Waste: A Relational Study of How Waste Comes to Matter for Humans, Society, and Future


The future world imagined by the circular economic model is a world without waste, provided that materials and energy circulate efficiently enough through society. The project WasteMatters disrupts the waste-as-resource paradigm prevalent in the circular economy related politics, business, and scholarship alike, and examines our contemporary trashscapes beyond the idea(l) of the eternal redemption of waste. Its novel approach is to analyse the leaky realities of waste as integral to the human condition and as constitutive of society. The project explores the implications of waste throughout society and what waste does for/to us; what kind of relations, agencies, and spatiotemporal scales it assumes, prompts, enacts, and sustains; to what kind of futures society commits itself with it; and what humans become with waste. The project develops a new methodology, more-than-human ethnography, to be able to attend to the vibrant nature and active role of waste in how we live together. The research will be carried out through four sub-studies across various sites (in Sweden and Finland), which function as important nodal points in the management and circulation of wastes: households, businesses, biogas plants, waste incinerators, and a nuclear waste repository and, to attend to the multiplicity of waste, the project will focus on four kinds of waste: food waste, plastic waste, waste incineration ash, and nuclear waste. Through the research design, the project will generate ground-breaking insight into waste as both constitutive of society and as something that disturbs it. The empirical, methodological, and conceptual insights will be combined to enable a leap in theory building to develop a new relational theory of waste that pays attention to the multiple spatiotemporal scales of society and human actions, ultimately leading to a paradigm change from the circular economy to waste matter society.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 974 800,00
Kalevantie 4
33100 Tampere

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Manner-Suomi Länsi-Suomi Pirkanmaa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00