Toward a sociology of reuse: deconstructing the milkbottle

Vaughan, Paul; Cook, Matthew and Trawick, Paul (2007). Toward a sociology of reuse: deconstructing the milkbottle. Sociologia Ruralis, 47(2) pp. 120–134.



This article investigates the practice of reuse, the relation between individuals and objects, using as a case study the refillable glass milk bottle. Based on interviews with 22 individuals in mainly rural settings, the study aims to understand what the milk bottle means today to the many people who still use it, and what the socioeconomic and other structures are that sustain this kind of product reuse. The discussion exposes the way that reuse is about both consumption and disposal and is maintained by a web of household practices, revealing the milk bottle as both a site of resistance to supermarkets and a site for the construction of collective and individual identities. We also expose the way that the materiality of the bottle enables myth and trust to be articulated. We conclude that this reuse practice is a form of non-market mediated exchange, marking reciprocal relations of care and trust.

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