The ERC-funded WasteMatters project (Consolidator grant, 2022-2027) studies the vibrant nature and active role of waste in how we live together. Taking into account recent calls for sustainable global futures with regard to the circular economy and the waste-as-resource paradigm, the project follows waste flows ethnographically with an aim to problematise the vibrant nature and active role of waste in our lives and society.
The research is carried out through four sub-studies across various sites in Finland and Sweden with a focus especially on food waste, plastic waste, waste incineration ash, and nuclear waste. In the project, we follow waste streams across society. We map waste flows and attend to the respective processes of sorting out, discarding, reappropriating, transporting, processing, and (re)valuing; pay attention to how waste sticks by, tarnishes, grows mould, rots, and decomposes; and examine what happens to discards as they flow, spill over, leak, mix, and mutate. For us, waste is also an invitation to explore the potentials of a more-than-human onto-epistemology. Waste does more than just urge us to expand the universe of entities to non-humans that research must take into account; it asks us to consider our entanglement with the world of materials and their processes. Thereby, in waste we are interested also in the withness of thinking and knowing. Ultimately, the project studies waste to gain a better understanding of the world we are living. It 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.