Ordinary Overflow: Food Waste and the Ethics of the Refrigerator

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This article analyzes the role of the refrigerator in how food becomes waste in socio-material and ethico-cultural practices. The modern food refrigeration technologies and practices have extended food's useability time. They have transformed ordinary life by allowing households to store ample amounts of fresh food. However, this study suggests that fridges merit more attention not only in terms of reducing food waste, but in efforts to understand how food waste comes into being. This article draws from an analysis of qualitative interviews with ordinary people in Canada and Finland to show that refrigerators are important agents in the moral narrative of food waste: They provide a concrete space where food becomes waste, a justification for food becoming waste, and a material reference point through which people can talk about wider cultural patterns, moral norms, and ordinary ethical dilemmas tied to food waste. Technical devices such as refrigerators do not alone create or solve the problem of food waste, but they are relevant to the ethics of wasting food. Focusing on the fridge helps to show how human and non-human material worlds are entangled and how an overflowing fridge can structure, illustrate, facilitate, and contribute to human ethical conduct related to food waste in a significant way.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFood and Foodways
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)145-164
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 5141 Sociology
  • Consumer
  • Food
  • abundance
  • ethics
  • refrigerator
  • waste

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