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Too many bananas : re-valuing and re-using food waste for human consumption.

Woodward, Amy (2016) Too many bananas : re-valuing and re-using food waste for human consumption. Masters thesis, University of Surrey.

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This thesis offers a sociological analysis of food waste as a social issue of importance. Alongside government intervention, numerous community groups and social enterprises have emerged across the UK which attempt to mitigate the costs of food waste in different ways. Drawing on ethnographic examples, this thesis draws attention to one grassroots social response to the food waste issue, freegan dumpster diving. Freeganism is a counter cultural movement which rejects capitalism and promotes more socially and environmentally equitable relations. Freegans reject the normative categorization of discarded food as valueless, unhygienic and inedible, and instead reclaim food disposed of by retailers for human consumption. Literature to date constructs freegan dumpster diving as a niche practice performed by individuals for political resistance or food poverty. Little attention has addressed the transformation of food waste into a valuable resource or what happens to food waste once it has been reclaimed. Drawing on participant observations and interviews conducted with six freegan community groups in the UK over 18-months, this thesis draws attention to the processes freegans engage in when dumpster diving to explore how food waste is re-valued and re-used. This emerges as a complex process. Dumpster diving is not an independent moment of recovery; attention to the different food waste pathways, as practitioners access, assess, reclaim, consume and distribute food waste varyingly, is required. Freegans regularly enact dumpster diving but for multiple reasons and in shifting configurations. A shared practice is visible across all freegan communities, albeit with some variations. These deviations allow freegans to navigate the social barriers to performance in different ways, enabling the practice to become entrenched in everyday life. When barriers prove insurmountable, practitioners move in and out of affiliation with the practice over their life-course. A similar but distinct practice has emerged in recent years with the growth of food redistribution organizations (FROs). FROs promote the re-valuing and re-using of food waste as a joint business and charity venture, supporting retailers in managing food waste by redistributing it to vulnerable people in food poverty. Utilising insights gathered through participant observations and interviews with two different FROs, these practices promote a more socially acceptable and scalable approach to reclaiming food waste than dumpster diving through their partnerships with food retailers. This, however, is at the expense of the wider socio-political objectives at the core of freeganism. The radical philosophy of freeganism thus both define its existence yet also constrains the ability for wider participation and social impact. This analysis provides useful insights into the freegan subculture and the food waste debate more widely, by exploring 1) the journeys of food waste 2) processes of reclaiming food waste 3) practitioner relationships to food waste over time and space. Freegan dumpster diving is revealed as an everyday practice that is constrained by, and constrains everyday life. At any one time, multiple food waste practices circulate, connect and transform. If points of intervention or transition to more sustainable food waste configurations are sought, further attention to this linked nexus of practices is required.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects : Sociology
Divisions : Theses
Authors :
Date : 31 August 2016
Funders : Self funded, Department of Sociology
Contributors :
Depositing User : Amy Woodward
Date Deposited : 06 Sep 2016 07:45
Last Modified : 17 May 2017 14:25

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