Creating careful circularities: Community composting in New York City

Oona Morrow*, Anna Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


While matters of food waste and soil have become vital research arenas, compost remains the Cinderella of human geographical enquiry. In response, this paper brings compost to the centre of debates at the intersection of diverse economies and circular economy. In particular, the concept of community composting and the care involved in such practices is used to offset and problematise the technoscientific bias in circular economy discourses. Extending feminist perspectives on care in soil studies, this paper focuses on the careful circularities that are realised through community composting in New York City. This case study provides not only a material space for examining community composting but also a unique opportunity to consider the colliding worlds of worth that operate in and around urban sustainability transitions to zero waste. Drawing empirical insights from interviews, participant observation, and document analysis, this paper argues for a sensitisation of circular economy policy and research to matters of care and diverse economies as a means to better understand motivations, justifications, and outcomes of efforts to reorient food systems onto more sustainable pathways. We argue that privileging care in this way helps to shift focus away from dominant narratives of "scaling-up" towards sustainability to a more relational perspective that sees transformation in connecting, deepening, and even scaling-down. This means attending to the micro as well as macro transformations needed to enact the required sustainability transitions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-546
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number2
Early online date9 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • care
  • circular economy
  • community composting
  • diverse economies
  • New York City


Dive into the research topics of 'Creating careful circularities: Community composting in New York City'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this