A Network of Waste—Compost Bins

Food travelling from producer to consumer can end up as unwanted or wasted goods through many different infrastructure systems. National Geographic states that “every year some 2.9 trillion pounds of food—about a third of all that the worldUgly-vegetables-and-fruits-.jpg produces—never gets consumed.” That’s a lot of wasted food! Fruit and vegetables can become wasted food throughout the harvesting process and on route to consumers via supermarkets. However, it has been stated that approximately 20% of fruit and vegetables are lost “during the picking and sorting, 3% [are] lost during storage and shipping, 2% [are] lost during production, canning, or baking, 9% [are] discarded at wholesalers and supermarkets [and] 19% [go] uneaten and discarded in homes” (Data for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and U.S., National Geographic, 2016). Food losses during the food production supply chain are enormous, thus causing the questioning of the dependability of infrastructures along the way.

 

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All this wasted food puts a strain on environmental infrastructures, “producing food that no one eats—whether sausage or snickerdoodles—also squanders the water, fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, fuel, and land needed to grow it” (NG). Additionally, waste from supermarkets, hotels and households usually ends up in the landfill, putting further strain on waste management systems. The reasons behind food wastage are vast, anything from the imperfect appearance of fruit and vegetables, unsold food, expired food, and uneaten food.

However, around the globe, different food wastage platforms (some web based) have been created in the aim of battling food waste in both the commercial and household networks. Similarly to all the social movements surrounding food wastage, Ran speaks to some of the issues surrounding plastic water bottles, another movement to reduce landfills deposits. Tarleton Gillespie, in The Politics of ‘platforms’ states that platforms are “an infrastructure that supports the design and use of particular applications, be they computer hardware, operating systems, gaming devices, mobile devices or digital disc formats” (Gillespie, 349). A way for advertisers or organizations “to reach consumers” and facilitate the reduction of food waste. For example, within many communities, the local waste infrastructures have been reorganized to include compost bins; a form of renewable waste (Metcalf, 136). With a broader waste infrastructure in place through the introduction of food bins, the garbage collection system must rely on many other aspects to ensure the flow of compost bins exists. Networks must adjust to facilitate this flow occurring, and for it to be able to reach the individuals involved in this network. The distribution of compost waste containers is needed, trucks are needed to collect the food waste, employees are needed to drive these trucks and collect the food waste…and the list of infrastructures involved in this network, no doubt, continues. Other very different initiative works with food vendors and farmers to utilize food before it’s discarded. There are many organization that continue to hold food movements called “Feeding the 5000,” which use “orphaned” food to create a delicious community meals that feed 5000 people with food that would have otherwise been disposed of. There are also many different companies that have created apps to reduce food wastage, by connected consumers to imperfect or unwanted food.

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This leaves with questions surrounding the gaps within the food supply chain infrastructure system and how can communities continue to reduce the amount of food waste occurring through these emerging platforms?

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1 Comment

  1. You mentioned Gillespie’s concept of platforms, and the ways in which they have been used to support the awareness of wastefulness. I was wondering if you had considered the internet and applications such as eBay and Amazon, that support the sale of “ugly” foods. For example, there have been bidding wars online to buy “ugly/abnormal” potatoes that look like Channing Tatum, Kellogs corn flakes the size of someones fist, and many other irregularly grown/produced foods that become glamorized and sold for large sums of money.

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