Cardiff Philosophy Cafe returns this month on 17 September for the final thematic session of our Future for Wales series, before our end of programme event at the Senedd on 27 November (about which more soon…).

This month, we turn to the last of our keywords, waste, with Dr Chris Groves (Social Sciences, Cardiff University). We are increasingly familiar with pronouncements about the need to move towards a ‘zero waste‘ society. The means of achieving this are generally presented as a mixture of measures, some popular and some much more controversial. In Wales, recycling and composting target, together with other measures, have been set out in a number of Welsh Government measures, the latest of which is the Waste Measure 2010. At the same time, the problem of nonrecyclable, non-compostable landfill waste has led an increase in the popularity of incineration as a disposal method, which many see as posing persistent ‘waste’ issues of its own, in the form of pollution.


Yet underlying these governance measures is a social, economic, psychological and philosophical relationship with waste that is extremely complex. Mainstream economics refused to acknowledge the existence of waste, with the well-known problem of externalities being a major manifestation of this refusal. Ecological economics, with its focus on energy as the basis of life, has striven for the creation of closed loops in production and consumption to ensure nothing is wasted. But do waste and acts of wastage play other roles in human life, ones that carry with them important but more problematic meanings? Phenomena like potlatch, carnivals, and other unruly social rituals place waste at the centre of social life rather than at the margins. If we are unprepared to acknowledge our ambiguous relationship with waste, can we truly understand what sustainability might mean?

As usual, we’re in the Cafe Bar in The Gate from 8.00pm.

To tweet about this event, use the hashtag #cpcwaste

Watch Slovenian social theorist Slavoj Zizek on the topic of waste:

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