Degree Name

GEOG401: Human Geography (Honours)




Dr Nicole Cook


Confronted with the economic and environmental costs of food waste, municipal-composting programs have proliferated. Some programs, (like Kiama Municipal Council’s ‘Ok Organics’), provide households with a ‘kitchen caddy’ to separate food waste that is to be collected by the council and composted. Such strategies bring residents face-to-face with food waste as they separate this food from other waste streams. Embodied research methods suggest encounters with both bins and waste, although ‘ordinary’ objects, can move people to re-consider their relationship to waste (Hawkins, 2005; Waitt & Phillips, 2016). Despite this, we have little sense of how the caddy, and contact with food waste, shapes such reflection and/or triggers new environmental subjectivities (Evans, 2012b; Metcalfe et al., 2012). Drawing on the case of Kiama Council’s waste program, this project addresses this gap. Through analysis of 15 semi-structured interviews, the research shows that the caddy’s presence including its sight, smell and decay, disrupted households, causing participants to develop strategies to regain control over their home space. While the caddy triggered slight changes towards more sustainable behaviour and alleviated the widely-felt pressures to be ‘environmental’, close encounters with food waste have not led to the revision of consumption and waste practices in more sustainable ways. Although, notably it is understanding pre-caddy histories that we can see participants had already formed, or were forming, insights into how they relate to waste, therefore already minimising waste in numerous innovative ways (e.g. composting and repurposing). This study suggests future waste minimisation policies support households in further managing of the inevitable visceralities of food waste.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.