The Garbage that We Eat: Metabolizing Food-Waste in New Orleans, LA

Authors: Kelly Haggerty*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Geography and Urban Health, Economic Geography
Keywords: Food Waste, Urban Metabolism, Waste Management, New Orleans
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8223, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The 2017 Climate Action for a Resilient New Orleans report strives to divert fifty percent of waste by 2030. In the same year, waste companies only managed to divert five percent of the total annual waste in Orlean's Parish. Nearly a decade away from 2030, city officials have not even tested or implemented strategies to reach this goal. While city officials scramble to launch pilot projects, community and grassroots organizations center around recovering and transforming garbage and food-waste. Using interviews and surveys with food-waste organizers from May to August 2018, this paper reveals that managing food-waste on a local scale contributes to the circulation and metabolization of resources in New Orleans. Nearly 100 restaurants, cafes, markets, grocery stores, offices, and hotels in Orleans parish partner with community organizations to separate their food-waste. The food-waste either feeds animals on urban farms, turned into compost soil, and if packaged and edible, distributed to food banks and food insecure families. In the organizers pursuit to divert waste from landfill, they create jobs, gain personal wealth, and transform waste into new commodities or resources. This paper views the city in terms of its sustainable urban metabolism, explaining the different scales in which waste reduction and recovery occurs in New Orleans.

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