Discard Studies


Discard Studies is a young field of research that takes systems of waste and wasting as its topic of study, including but beyond conventional notions of trash and garbage. To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is […]
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If the disposability of menstrual products is not prioritised as much as their accessibility, India could be dealing with mountains of discarded waste products in less than 50 years.

Wishcycling is the process of placing discards into the recycling bin even when there’s little to no chance for their recovery. The term entered common use over the last six or so years. But its usage and meaning have changed over time.

New articles, positions, special issues and calls for papers related to Discard Studies for January 2021.

Firsting in research, then, is not about being first to a place, first to know something, first to discover something. It is a proclamation of power to make property in someone’s home, to put your own name on otherwise shared or common knowledge. It’s a proclamation of the privilege to not see others, cite others, or acknowledge others.

The obsession that media has had with small businesses has hidden the most aggressive public health measures are missing the biggest driver of the pandemic: large industrial workplaces.

It’s time for reminiscing! And what better topic to think back on than a year’s worth of trashy insights? Here are the top ten posts from Discard Studies in 2020 as determined by our readers!

The Dirt is a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field of discard studies. Here is The Dirt for December 2020.

A group of boys and young men work on disassembling a machine on the ground

Though Nigeria approved a national solid waste management policy earlier this year, it does not provide a plan to include the large informal sector. An inclusive policy is one recognising and involving informal waste workers in solid waste management while also yielding improvements in their lives and waste management performance.

The Dirt is a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field of discard studies. Here is The Dirt for November 2020.

In November 2020, Discard Studies held our first ever Twitter Conference. Here’s how it worked! #TwitterConference

The Discard Studies Twitter Conference is going live on November 16th and 17th! Here is the schedule. #Discard2020

waste grafitti

The Dirt is a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field of discard studies. Here is The Dirt for October 2020.

Put simply, evoking the universal “we” is a way to discard differences and maintain business as usual.

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for March-September 2020.

face mask in a gutter

What do we know about the relationships between waste and COVID-19? Some figures and insights are emerging, but given that we’re in the thick of the pandemic and the expressions of a global pandemic will still vary greatly by region, type of waste, and change over time, any knowledge will be both partial and early. […]
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Discard Studies is throwing a Twitter conference! Twitter conferences are accessible, create a permanent record of scholarship, support conversations with diverse audiences, and best of all, the presentations are short and planned in advance. Authors present their papers as threaded tweets, and audiences from around the world can read and comment from the comfort of […]
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Agbogbloshie is a part of an emergent globalised scrap economy that links peripheral markets to global metal flows. In this post, Dagna Rams argues for the need to pay closer attention to the flow of recuperated metals out of Agbogbloshie.

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for February 2020.

Gulls. Pigeons. Rats. Lice. These ‘trash animals’ live alongside waste, filth, ruination and decay. Attitudes, behaviour and infrastructure aimed at dealing with ‘trash animals’ tell us a lot about systems of discarding. The following is a bibliography of ‘trash animals’ research.

Discard studies is an emerging field that takes systems of waste and wasting as its topic of study, including but beyond conventional notions of trash and garbage. To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for December […]
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While giving food that would otherwise go to landfill to hungry people may be a convenient part of a solution to reduce greenhouse gases, it will do little to ensure the well-being of the four million Canadians who are food insecure.

We decided to do something new this year at Discard Studies: we tracked the links our readers followed. With ‘The Dirt” coming out monthly with it’s hundreds of links to new articles, calls for papers, and opportunities, we wanted to see how readers were directing their attention and voting with their mouses. Mice? Never sure […]
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It’s time for reminiscing! And what better topic to think back on than a year’s worth of trashy insights? Here are the top ten posts from Discard Studies in 2019 as determined by our viewers! Here’s what you all read the most: #10: The Tragedy of the Tragedy of the commons By Matto Mildenberger, June 2019 […]
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To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for November 2019.

Discard studies spoke with three leading waste researchers about the biggest myths of the circular economy.

Australian discard studies scholars Catherine Phillips, David Boarder Giles, and Gay Hawkins discuss intellectual traditions, settler colonialism, and the future of the field.

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for August 2019.

Development initiatives focused on menstrual health and sanitary pads in Southern countries actually disempower women as knowers and innovators.

Discard studies is an emerging field that takes systems of waste and wasting as its topic of study, including but beyond conventional notions of trash and garbage. To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt […]
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“The main goal and mission of a content moderator is to clean up the dirt.” — unnamed content moderator in The Cleaners (00:06:20). All systems must rid themselves of things. If they don’t discard, those systems face existential threats to their continuation. This is a fundamental insight of anthropologist Mary Douglas’s work and a core […]
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Douglas’ theory of matter out of place is about power. Something in the wrong spot, something poisonous, is not matter out of place. Unless it threatens power.

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for August 2019.

This is a Twitter essay by Josh Lepawsky (@rubbishmaker) about one of many recent examples of reporting on the e-waste trade. Many of the problems specific to the article considered here can be found in a wide variety of reportage about the international waste trade more generally.

The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in research related to waste and wasting.

A Twitter essay by Matto Mildenberger (@mmildenberger)   Something I’ve been meaning to say about The Tragedy of the Commons. Bear with me for a small thread on why our embrace of Hardin is a stain on environmentalism: we’ve let a flawed metaphor by a racist ecologist define environmental thinking for a half century. Hardin’s […]
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To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for June 2019.

Mining is, as some in the industry quip, primarily a waste management industry.

For Raphael Lemkin, who invented the term, genocide was the effort to destroy a group as a group. #MMIWG

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for May 2019.

by Gay Hawkins ‘Disposable’ usually describes minor ephemeral things from take-away coffee cups to plastic bags. More recently, it has been applied to furniture, fashion, technologies and even people. But what does it mean? The phrase ‘easy come, easy go’ captures many of the popular assumptions about disposability. Disposable items are immediately available and appear […]
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Discard Studies interviews writer Adam Minter, author of ‘Junkyard Planet’ and journalist for Bloomberg about his next book, ‘Secondhand’

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for April 2019.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are a class of environmental toxicants that may impact sex, gender, and sexuality. Here is our bibliography on queering EDCs.

The 1917 Silent Parade in New York City

A Twitter essay by Mary Annaïse Heglar: Sorry, Y’all, but Climate Change Ain’t the First Existential Threat

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for March 2019.

The US ‘tech sector’ has been a major source of toxicant releases. These interactive maps show the chemical legacy of electronic manufacturing in the US.

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for February 2019.

By Samantha MacBride There are a series of assumptions behind the familiar assertion that recycling saves resources and energy, and in so doing, protects the environment. These assumptions are in the motto, “recycling saves trees.” With recycling  – one assumes – used materials stand in for raw materials. This way, recycled content cuts down on […]
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The Gulf Stream, which curves along the southern shore of Newfoundland, is saturated with plastics. Fish that feed from the surface waters, where plastics tend to accumulate, are in an ideal position to ingest plastics. But what about the bigger fish that eat these fish, especially when we eat those predators? In 2016, our laboratory […]
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Attacks on research have become routinized and institutionalized. Here is our step-by-step guide on what to do if you and your research are attacked.

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for January 2019.

What are the most frequently read articles on Discard Studies? You might be surprised by #1!

#Discardstudies takes waste and wasting as its topic of study. To keep practitioners up-to-date, we publish The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field.

These experiences resonate strongly with the concept of “solastagia,” described both as a form of homesickness while still in place, and as a type of grief over the loss of a healthy place or a thriving ecosystem.

Conservation biologist Alex Bond on dealing with pollution, harm, and suffering as a scientist.

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field. Here is The Dirt for November 2018.

Nuclear State, Nuclear Waste: Emily Simmonds on Canada as a nuclear nation & ongoing colonialism through uranium mining.

Waste colonialism refers to how waste and pollution are part of the domination of one group in their homeland by another group. The concept has been gaining traction since the 1990s to explain patterns of power in wasting and pollution.

Recycling was never just a solution to a disposal crisis, and it did not uniformly reduce total waste management costs. Rather, it addresses a range of other concerns which are equally valid but nearly impossible to quantify.

The deficit model frames public controversies about contamination as a lack of scientific understanding or trust in government institutions. People are seen as deficient in knowledge about an issue, erasing local, community, and personal expertise.

To keep practitioners up-to-date, Discard Studies publishes The Dirt, a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field.

We tend to think that we are familiar with waste because we deal with it every day. Yet, this is not the case–most aspects of waste are entirely hidden from view and understanding.

After riding along with Bill that day, I started wondering about the morality of turning dead deer into “zoological garbage.”[3] If how we treat the dead influences how we treat the living, then the most obvious question is whether this is a respectful way to treat the dead.

By Susan Ross Construction, renovation, and demolition (CR&D) waste can represent from 30 to 50% of municipal solid waste (Yeheyis et al, 2013). Yet this area of discard studies seems chronically understudied. Susan Ross, Assistant Professor at Carleton University, Canada, provides an extended bibliography on the topic, with a focus on one aspect of demolition […]
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By Susan Ross Building deconstruction refers to the careful taking apart of a building to salvage its reusable materials and components. These are either stored on site for short-term integration in a new design, or removed to a salvage yard for use at a later date. Whereas prevailing mechanical demolition creates mounds of unsorted debris […]
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Canadian regulators are all over the map with respect to flame retardants. On PBDEs, Canada infamously refused to take meaningful regulatory action. The government found most PBDEs to be toxic substances in 2006, but it declined to ban or restrict them in consumer products in 2008 or in 2016.

Wednesday is America Recycles Day. It’s a day that reveals the complex history of industry, consumer, and social attitudes towards the environment.

This review of a special issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology titled, “Exploring the Circular Economy” is a virtual tour of circular economy definitions and current directions. The authors discuss and derive new definitions of “circularity.” They cover fundamental determinants of material lifespan, such as economic demand, thermodynamics, product design, and durability.

Neighborhoods with median annual incomes below US$25,000 were nearly 2 decibels louder than neighborhoods with incomes above $100,000 per year. And nationwide, communities with 75 percent black residents had median nighttime noise levels of 46.3 decibels – 4 decibels louder than communities with no black residents. A 10-decibel increase represents a doubling in loudness of a sound, so these are big differences.

Since critical discard studies doesn’t (yet!) have its own journal, conference, or department, Discard Studies publishes a regular table of contents alerts for articles, reports, and books in the field. If you are interested in becoming an editor for non-English article alerts on Discard Studies, or know of a recent article for the next article […]
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In an economic sense, it is usually municipal and state governments that account for the cost of damage waste causes to local environments when deciding how to deal with waste, but this cost is not already part of the price of goods or services that produce waste. Economists define this problem as a negative externality.

It might seem that the obvious solution is to reuse rockets. The idea of Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLVs) isn’t new, but reusing rockets has proven tricky in the past.

How the Benzene Tree Polluted the World in The Atlantic by Rebecca Altman, is a narrative exploration of the rise of organic chemistry, and the industrialization of the branch of chemistry based on the benzene ring. The piece focuses on the geopolitical forces shaping the production and global distribution of PCBs, a class of industrial chemicals that, though […]
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This conference is based on the idea that, not only has this power varied among industries, countries and different periods, but also that the way in which it is wielded has evolved over time.

Over the past 100 years, visual artists probably deserve the most credit for thrift shopping’s place in the cultural milieu.

The Professorship of Science & Technology Policy (Prof. Dr. Ruth Müller), based at the Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS) and affiliated with the School of Life Sciences, Technical University of Munich, announces an *open position for a doctoral researcher in Science & Technology Studies (STS) *(TV-L E13, 65%, 3 years, fixed term) as […]
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These are admirable initiatives, but they only reduce wastage or delay garments from ending up in landfill. They do not address the fact that the scale of fast fashion is so massive it can easily eclipse other sustainability initiatives.

Thinking with virtual data demonstrates that reduction of material waste alone does not mean a reduction of an overall environmental footprint on this planet.

Colonialism in Canada is an ongoing structure whereby settler society and government assert sovereignty over lands already occupied by Indigenous peoples.

Since critical discard studies doesn’t (yet!) have its own journal, conference, or department, Discard Studies publishes a regular table of contents alerts for articles, reports, and books in the field. If you are interested in becoming an editor for non-English article alerts on Discard Studies, or know of a recent article for the next article […]
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Call for Papers Ethnographic Practices and the Temporality of Evidence CASCA-CUBA: Canadian Anthropology Society Annual Meeting 16-20 May, 2018 Universidad de Oriente – Santiago de Cuba, Cuba Panel Organizer: Maxime Polleri, York University  Following the ongoing concerns surrounding questions of scientific knowledge and the role of anthropology in accessing, rationalizing, and circulating data, (Kirksey 2009; Fortun […]
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Join The Post-Landfill Action Network at the Students for Zero Waste Conference on November 3rd-4th, 2017, in Philadelphia, PA!

A trench amphipod, Hirondellea gigas, from the deepest place on Earth: Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench (10,890m). Alan Jamieson, Newcastle University, Author provided Alan Jamieson, Newcastle University Even animals from the deepest places on Earth have accumulated pollutants made by humans. That’s the unfortunate finding of a new study by myself with colleagues from […]
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The workshop Hazardous Time-Scapes seeks to understand human-environment relationships through the lens of multiple overlapping time, space, and body regimes as they have (and continue to) play out in toxic landscapes.

Goods and services produced in one region for use by another region are responsible for 22% (762,400) of air pollution-related deaths worldwide.

Notions of “sustainability” and “urban greening” ought to include values of justice and equity. Otherwise, important projects like the Blue Greenway will build sustainable waterfronts for the urban elite, rather than spreading the environmental benefits of toxic cleanup to the many.

Workshop – Call for Papers  Shifting Baselines, Altered Horizons: Politics, Practice, and Knowledge in Environmental Science and Policy  Max Planck Institute for the History of Science  (MPIWG) Berlin, Germany – 21-22 June 2018 Convenors: Wilko Graf von Hardenberg (MPIWG, Germany), Thomas Lekan, (University of South Carolina, USA), Sebastián Ureta, (Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile)   Description […]
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Why is recycling low on the waste hierarchy?

Remember, this is not waste that was dumped directly by human hands. It was washed here on ocean currents, meaning that this is not just about one beach – it shows how much the pollution problem has grown in the entire ocean system in little more than two decades.

Toxicity, toxins, and toxicants are areas of critical concern because controversies over what they mean, how they act, how they come into being and where, and what counts as evidence have high stake ramifications. These texts offer critical insights into these processes:

Since critical discard studies doesn’t (yet!) have its own journal, conference, or department, Discard Studies publishes a regular table of contents alerts for articles, reports, and books in the field. If you are interested in becoming an editor for non-English article alerts on Discard Studies, or know of a recent article for the next article alert, please […]
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A reading list of the David and Goliath story of communities versus industries, governments, and polluting infrastructures.

By Dr. Sara B. Pritchard Department of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University So it began. This was the image that sparked my interest in light pollution and light-pollution science (Figure 1). The National Aeronautics and Space Administration released new images of Earth at night, including this one, on December 5, 2012, at the annual meeting […]
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If I could only recommend one text in discard studies, it would be Recycling Reconsidered by Samantha MacBride (2011, MIT Press).

“Viewed as a concept by some, a framework by others, the CE is an alternative to a traditional take-make-dispose linear economy. A CE aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. The value is maintained or extracted though extension of product lifetimes by reuse, refurbishment, and remanufacturing as well as closing of resource cycles—through recycling and related strategies.”

Our research into the issue of corporate social responsibility and wastage of fresh fruit and vegetables has identified a number of tensions and contradictions, despite leading Australian supermarkets’ zero food waste targets.

This special issue attempts to open up the categories of social thought to a deeper understanding of earth processes.

This panel aims at expanding the theoretical scope on the Anthropocene by attuning to air, breathe, volatility, atmospheres and suspension as modes of attending to the more-than-solid ecologies of the Anthropocene. We ask: what temporalities, phenomenologies, embodiments, and politics does the Anthropocene invoke when thought in aerial, eolic, respiratory or

atmospheric terms?

The Dirt is a monthly compilation of recent publications, positions, opportunities, and calls for proposals in the field of Discard Studies.