Changing Socio-Technical Practices to Enable the Composting of Food Waste for Food Production

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:48
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Vivienne WALLER, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
The modern landfill has remained the dominant method for managing food waste in developed countries and currently 97% of the food waste generated in the state of Victoria in Australia is sent to landfill.  There food waste rots, emitting greenhouse gases and producing toxic leachate.  Changes in the socio-technical landscape have led to increasing tensions about the unsustainability of the current food waste management regime of kerbside collection and landfill.  Additionally, policy makers have realized that by sending food waste to landfill, they are literally throwing away the valuable economic and environmental resource of compost.   While composting food waste has compelling environmental, health and economic arguments in its favour, transitioning from landfill to sustainable management of food waste involves transforming the entire socio-technical regime.  This includes not only the landfill and waste collection industries, pricing structures, and the regulatory environment, but the the array of practices and consumer preferences associated with the management of food waste. 

This paper presents the preliminary findings from an action research project that intervenes at a range of locations into residential and commercial practices around food waste management. Niche innovations of medium-scale on-site composting of household and commercial food waste have been introduced into different types of urban precinct, with the resulting compost used for growing food locally.  The viability of these niche innovations is compared with the alternative of kerbside collection of food waste and offsite composting, where the resulting compost is used in agriculture.

Taking a case study approach, the research examines the socio-technical practices around the food waste separation and composting as well as around the use of the compost.  The findings will inform reshaping of the future of urban food waste management into a more environmentally sustainable one, that takes account of different dispositions towards the management of food waste.