Drawing on research with food waste recycling facilities in New England, this paper explores a fundamental tension between the eco-modernist logics of the circular economy and the reality of contemporary waste streams. Composting and digestion are promoted as key solutions to food waste, due to their ability to return nutrients to agricultural soils. However, our work suggests that food waste processors increasingly find themselves responsible for policing boundaries between distinct “material” and “biological” systems as imagined by the architects of the circular economy—boundaries penetrable by toxicants. This responsibility creates significant problems for processors due to the regulatory, educational, and structural barriers documented in this research. This paper contributes to scholarship which suggests the need to rethink the modernist logics of the circular economy and to recognize the realities of entangled material and biological systems. More specifically, we argue that if circularity is the goal, policy needs to recognize the barriers food waste processors face and concentrate circularity efforts further upstream to ensure fair, just, and safe circular food systems.
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- Circular Economy and Sustainability
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- National Science Foundation
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