Dirty or Clean? Frameworks for Waste

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    The language used to talk about waste reveals the structuring stories and frames that are used by waste professionals. The data analysed in this paper demonstrate that waste is framed in relation to business and economics, the environment and nature, and in relation to cultural norms about dirt and matter being out of place. More generally, the language of waste focusses on value(s), systems and cycles. In this paper, I analyse the language used by waste professionals in Seattle, Washington to identify the different frames through which waste is seen. Close comparison of these discursive frames reveals their absences and tensions, especially in relation to business and environmental understandings of waste. In addition to documenting these frames, I argue that a distinction between use value and exchange value is important in the field of waste as it helps to distinguish between waste as commodity and waste as a (natural) resource. I further argue that by considering different conceptions of time (natural, cultural and individual) it becomes possible to see the kinds of actions that need to be taken in order to deal with waste. Finally, by reflecting on recent changes in attitudes to plastic waste, arguably caused by a media event, I suggest that the frames themselves may be useful in reminding and reframing our relationship with waste.

    © 2021 A. Mooney. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalLanguage and Ecology
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2021


    • waste, garbage, linguistics, framing, ecolinguistics

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