From Trash to Treasure: Valuation of Waste in Dumpster Diving

Alkaa kello
Päättyy kello

Pinni B building, lecture hall B1097, address: Kanslerinrinne 1

The lecture explores the connections between value, ethics, and waste matter by attending to the voluntary dumpster diving for food. The practice implies recovering discarded items from trash bins, often placed in supermarket backyards or in the vicinity of other commercial establishments.

Despite its seemingly marginal nature, the lecture suggests that dumpster diving is a highly relevant and fruitful topic for the understanding of valuation, as it involves the transformation of trash into treasure in hands-on practices of valuation.

The lecture examines not only what is valued in dumpster diving, but, importantly, also how the valuation takes place in practice. First, for dumpster divers, the judgment of whether something can or cannot be eaten is not a separate activity, but it is intertwined with other activities. In dumpster diving, the practices of moving in townscape, diving into waste containers, as well as sorting, picking up, transporting, washing, peeling, freezing, and cooking, for example, are integral to what it is to valuate. Second, that valuation of waste in dumpster diving is inextricably entangled with practices that are not explicitly about value also means that valuation is not only about knowing what can be eaten, but also about making them good to eat. Dumpster diving thus entails an important lesson about the creativity of valuation. Third, the case of dumpster diving also illustrates how valuation is bound to remain more or less uncertain. It lacks fixed variables and waste remains in excess of classifications.


The Speakers Series of the University of Tampere is a series of Studia Generalia Lectures in the Study of Society organized weekly by the University of Tampere Institute for Advanced Social Research (IASR) in cooperation with the New Social Research Programme (NSR). The lectures are given by the Research Fellows as well as the distinguished guests of the IASR and the NSR. For the programme, please check the IASR website Most doctoral students can also get 2 ECTS for attending a minimum of six IASR Lectures, altogether 6 ECTS at the maximum. These 2 ECTS for attending 6 lectures can be earned during two successive terms.


Research Secretary Marjukka Virkajärvi,, 050 318 6697