Skip to content


OED Definition
Pronunciation: /wāst/
Verb: 1 [with object] use or expend carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose; bestow or expend on an unappreciative recipient; fail to make full or good use of. 2 [no object] (of a person or a part of the body) become progressively weaker and more emaciated; [with object] archaic cause to do this. 3 [with object] literary devastate or ruin (a place); informal kill or severely injure (someone). 4 [no object] literary (of time) pass away; be spent.
Adjective: 1 (of a material, substance, or byproduct) eliminated or discarded as no longer useful or required after the completion of a process. 2 (of an area of land, typically in a city or town) not used, cultivated, or built on.
Noun: 1 an act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose; (archaic) the gradual loss or diminution of something. 2 material that is not wanted; the unusable remains or byproducts of something. 3 a large area of barren, typically uninhabited land. 4 (Law) damage to an estate caused by an act or by neglect, especially by a life-tenant.
Origin: Middle English: from Old Northern French wast(e) (noun), waster (verb), based on Latin vastus ‘unoccupied, uncultivated’; compare with vast

“The waste of the world becomes my art” – Kurt Schwitters

“Waste” suggests not only useless consumption—squandering, extravagance, and indulgence—but dissipation, destruction, and death; the last a verb form often associated with the American war in Vietnam, where “to waste” meant “to kill.” Waste means decline, as in “wasting away.” Susan Strasser – Waste and Want (2000)

“Until the 19th century, the term ‘to consume’ was used mainly in its negative connotations of  ‘destruction’ and ‘waste’. Tuberculosis was known as ‘consumption’, that is, a wasting disease. Then  economists came up with a bizarre theory, which has become widely accepted, according to which the basis of a sound economy is a continual increase in the consumption (that is, waste) of  goods.” Skrabanek, Petr. 1994. The Death of Humane Medicine and the Rise of Coercive Healthism. The Social Affairs Unit, Suffolk, UK. p29.

SG: “You made several pieces using threadwaste, some that included mirrors. Why did you choose to use this material? Did it have any particular resonance?” RM: “Threadwaste (multi-colored threads and bits of cloth) was saturated with oil and packed in the journal boxes of freight cars in the 1950s as a lubricant for the half-round bronze bearings in this primitive system (since changed to roller bearings). In the winter we switchmen would take handfuls of this oil-soaked threadwaste from a journal box, throw it in the little iron stoves of the tiny shacks located here and there in the freight yards, light it up, and in a few minutes the stoves would be glowing red and we would be warm.” Simon Grant and Robert Morris, Tate Etc. issue 14; Autumn 2008.

“I think what the feedlots represent is a certain logic about how culture and society have evolved. On one level it’s absolutely terrifying, that this is what we’ve become. They’re not just feedlots. They’re how we are.” Mishka Henner interview on Fastco, August 2013.

Mishka Henner – Coronado Feeders, Dalhart, Texas (2013). Archival pigment print,102x122cm

Alex Lockwood – Millionaire (2009) lottery tickets, 18 x 10 x 8 inches / 45.7 x 25.4 x 20.3cm

Robert Morris – Untitled (Threadwaste) (1968) Felt, asphalt, mirrors, wood, copper tubing, steel cable, and lead. Dimensions variable, approximately 21 1/2″ x 21′ 11″ x 16′ 9″ (54.6 x 668 x 510.5 cm)

Faith Pearson – Village (2010-) Tiny replicas of specific refugee camps, shanty towns and slums using discarded materials found in the street.

Leo Fitzmaurice – This is it but that’s alright (2009) advertising flyers, 420cm diameter

Elliott Mariess – Waste (2012) plastic cutlery, dimensions variable

Dieter Roth – Flacher Abfall (Flat Waste) (1975-76) Flat waste in plastic sleeves, in 623 binders, in five wooden racks, dimensions variable.

Liu Jianhua – Yiwu Survey (2006), mixed media, dimensions variable.

Gina Czarnecki – The Wasted Works (Palaces) (2012) Constructed from clear glass-like material embedded with thousands of milk teeth, donated by the public.

Tomoko Takahashi – My Playstation (2005)

Anthony Gormley – Waste Man (2006) 30 tonnes of waste materials that had been gathered by the Thanet waste disposal services and by local people, and deposited in Dreamland, the area of Margate next to the sea and close to the station that had traditionally been the site of a vast funfair

Song Dong – Waste Not (2012)

Song Dong – Waste Not (2012)

Elise Morin & Clémence Eliard – Waste Landscape (2011) 65000 discarded CDs


Sarah A. Moore - Garbage Matters: Concepts in new geographies of waste

Sarah A. Moore – Garbage Matters: Concepts in new geographies of waste

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: