Waste values is a research initiative at the Department of Sociology, Uppsala University. The aim of the initiative is twofold: 1) to be a platform for waste research in the social sciences and as such to facilitate networks and national and international collaboration and 2) to communicate and disseminate research carried out by its members.
At the core of the questions that we ask is a concern with the material, social, cultural and economic values that get attached with waste. Waste is situational, relational and fluid. In some places it is unwanted and worthless. In other places it is celebrated as a precious resource, a valuable good. Both technologies and infrastructures help to shape and reshape this relation between valuable and worthless. And so, too, does mundane and creative practices. Waste values asks how the valuable, the desirable and the worthless and unusable gets negotiated, practised, and variously stabilised through the ways in which society organises waste.
Recycling, reusing and revaluing discarded and abandoned matters has been crucial to make ends meet in times of scarcity. With increased emphasis on creating sustainable value chains and business models, practising thriftiness also becomes an environmental concern. Here, the business model known as Circular Economy aims to generate values – economic, social, environmental and material – to facilitate and make possible sustainable and effective flows of material. Waste values asks both how such models and their realisation through waste management practices and infrastructure create values and valuation, and how they risk hampering small-scale initiatives and waste prevention.