Coping with Excess

Coping with Excess

How Organizations, Communities and Individuals Manage Overflows

Edited by Barbara Czarniawska and Orvar Löfgren

What does a stockbroker in Istanbul navigating the rush of incoming trading figures have in common with a mother in Stockholm trying to organize a growing pile of baby clothes? They are both coping with excess or overflow. This book explores the ways in which institutions, corporations and individuals define and manage situations of ‘too much’ – too much information, too many choices, too many commodities or too many tasks.

Chapter 10: Recycling food waste into biogas, or how management transforms overflows into flows

Hervé Corvellec

Subjects: business and management, critical management studies, organisation studies, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


To throw away food is to invite virtually unanimous condemnation. Contemporary patterns of production and consumption, which allow tonnes of edible product to be discarded at every stage of production, distribution, consumption and post-consumption, has long been considered a sign of moral breakdown by members of the anti-hunger movement. Increasingly, these patterns are considered to be harbingers of ecological breakdown as well, for although discarded food never reaches the oesophagus, its production still requires the consumption of huge quantities of water, fertilizers, pesticides and energy. Yet waste management companies claim that there is at least a partial solution to these moral and ecological breakdowns: the food that one cannot help but waste can be turned into a resource (Corvellec and Hultman, 2012) – the twenty-first-century equivalent of the late nineteenth-century oil rush: biogas! Uneaten food, waste management companies tell us, can become fuel for the buses and cars that take us to work. What is needed is an efficient system that separates food waste from other refuse and adequately processes waste. Waste management authorities and waste management companies do not recommend that people oversupply themselves with food in order to support their local transportation company with a sufficient supply of biogas, of course, or that they throw food away rather than eating it, as a new type of diet. Rather they insist that food waste should be reduced at the source.

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