Food, excess, wastage and waste: An ethnography of the practices of framing food products in the Finnish retail sector

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The reduction of consumer and retail food waste is crucial for the transition towards a circular economy to take place. Based on an ethnography conducted in a supermarket in Finland, the article examines the hands-on practices of producing and preventing food waste in the retail sector, with a focus on the practices of framing and valuing products. We pay special attention to the process of ridding, which our analysis shows to be integral to selling food products and thus creating value. The findings shed light on how different modes of valuation, both monetary and non-monetary, related to the food products sometimes clash with each other in the everyday operations of the retail business, creating challenges for circular practices. Moreover, the analysis also brings to light how the supermarket practices do not only produce food or waste, but the categories of surplus food are much more varied and subtle. We claim that understanding the multiplicity of these categories, their enactment and mutual relations, and the different modes of valuation related to them is crucial for understanding how and why food waste is generated in the retail sector. Our analysis shows that rather than being only a managerial problem in the context of the circular economy, food waste is always enacted and unmade situationally, through constant hands-on work that also entails leakage and spillover.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-38
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Circular economy
  • Food waste
  • Framing
  • Retail sector
  • Valuation

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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