Food waste has emerged as an increasing focus of scholarship in both sociology and geography. This article examines the contemporary upsurge of interest in food waste primarily using the lens of food regime theory. Food regime periodization is used to examine three eras: 1) the most recent emergence of counter-regime activities in food waste politics, 2) much earlier, pre-WWII and wartime waste management, and 3) post-WWII erasure of food waste as a cultural concern. Based on these three, the argument proposes that food regime periodization is able to provide some structural shape to wider shifts in the cultural positioning of food waste but does not provide a satisfactory account of contemporary politics around waste. Drawing on material from the mid-20th century transition in waste culture, three dynamics are identified: measurability, austerity and edibility which both help situate contemporary waste politics within a longer historical framework and also challenge the food regime framework to broaden its focus to include the power of waste to contest the ontological politics of regimes.