Publication: Rethinking organic waste streams as metabolic drivers for improving urban sustainability and agroecological practices
Restoring the nutrient cycles, and assuming their centrality for sustainable management of agro-environmental resources at local level, are key aspects for amending the metabolic rift that has been historically triggered by the emergence of capitalistic socio-spatial organization, and that is currently reproduced and further deepened under neoliberal urbanization processes. This paper aims to explore how organic waste streams can be reorganized and reconnected with urban and periurban agriculture, enabling the proactive role of farmers and food growers in soil nutrient cycling, and reshaping urban metabolism towards more regenerative and resourceful models. In particular, we look at composting practices as meaningful entry points for inquiring the relations between urban metabolism and agroecological practices. The paper builds on some initial insights offered by the case studies of London and Venice, bringing to light which kind of soil nutrition and land management practices are currently prevailing among food growers in these contexts, which connections are established between food production and food waste, to which extent compost from organic waste is valued (and eventually claimed) as an essential asset for nutrient cycling, how access and control on resources can be facilitated and empowered, and finally how the pattern of urban waste streams can be rethought for enabling place-based metabolic ecologies, considering environmental and social justice issues. Unpacking these aspects allows to understand better how metabolic processes are related to (and embedded into) specific practices of labor located in time and place, and to expand the urban metabolism analytical framework in order to move beyond the ‘black box’ effects from which suffer many quantitative approaches strictly focused on material flows.
organic waste, nutrient cycling, resource management, urban metabolism, urban agroecology