Making Waste: Reuse, Repurpose and Reduce?

Thursday 29 & Friday 30 September 2016

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CCANESA Boardroom, Madsen Building (F09), University of Sydney


To investigate this nexus of creativity, waste and culture

This two-day workshop focuses on the everyday material practices that are changing how we understand waste — as a concept, as an object and as a dynamic process of circulation, transformation and revalorisation. It takes as its starting point the fact that the way we manage waste is at the heart of environmental challenges and the development of more sustainable futures.

Waste is commonly understood as the end product of how we live — worthless, redundant, unwanted and abandoned when productive activity has been completed. In Sydney and elsewhere, new modes of valuing discarded objects, second-hand goods and underused city spaces have appeared. This has occurred alongside the revival, in new contexts and within new value systems, of the habits and practices associated with previous modes of life in which thrift or self-sustainability played a central role. Through these processes of reusing, recycling and repurposing, waste has begun to take on a newly valorised and important place in the city, departing from official sanitation schemes and waste management strategies aimed to address or make invisible the abject in waste.

A range of cultural phenomena, including food sharing, dumpster diving, garage sales, clothing reuse, domestic food production, chicken-keeping and water and waste recycling, illustrate that waste is never static but rather is something that is constantly formed and transformed within the conduits of production and consumption. Through such material practices, waste is not only revalorised but also becomes entangled in the formation of new identities, pleasures and everyday politics.

The workshop brings together scholars from Australia, Germany and the UK to investigate this nexus of creativity, waste and culture. It addresses the urban infrastructures that were designed to eliminate waste in the name of modernity and progress but which are now in crisis, and the households that are experimenting with waste management and sustainability in new and surprising ways.