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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

The Waste of the World

This programme aims;

  • To rethink how waste is thought about in social science;
  • To provide a global analysis of waste;
  • To examine how rethinking waste impinges on core social science concerns, notably: economies, researching globalisation, hazards and risk, and materiality.

Social science understandings of waste position waste as the end-point of production and consumption, and see waste as a question of disposal. In this programme we see waste as an ever-present potential; as an intrinsic part of all economic activity. Thinking about waste in this way leads to thinking about economies in terms of materials transformations and flows of materials. Rather than focus on the production (and consumption) of pre-determined commodities, our emphasis is on the materialisation of commodities, ie the processes of their coming together and dissolution in materials. Social science understandings of waste are also typically national-specific. In a world in which global markets in wastes are increasingly apparent and controversial this will no longer suffice.

The programme focuses on global economies in hazardous and non-hazardous wastes and addresses technologies of waste management in different parts of the world, examining the cultural distinctions between practices of burial and burning as forms of materials transformation.

Further information

Project contact: Professor Nicky Gregson, University of Sheffield

  • Outputs (178)