Automatizing Green Practices? The Analysis of Reverse Vending Machines as a Re-contamination of Theories of Practices


  • Paolo Giardullo University of Padova



Theories of social practices, Environmental sociology, Recycling, Domestic waste management, Reverse vending machine


The analysis I bring to the present symposium about contamination of practice theories concentrates on potential reconfiguration of domestic waste management as social practice through the installation of Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs). Being them designed to collect plastic bottles and caps assigning a reward to whom bestows them, this research concentrates on RVMs functioning and the re-composition of everyday practices they are supposed to bring. The analysis re-contaminates theories of practices encompassing consumptions studies, sustainability and Actor-Network Theory’s concepts within the broader framework of environmental sociology. These three scholarships already contaminated theories of practices and contributed sensibly to strengthen their application. I will review the essence of these contributions and, moving from that, I will further explore the agency of objects within everyday social practices relying on the case study of RVMs. Through media analysis further informed by fieldnotes about direct observation and informal interviews, I will reconstruct the RVM rationale highlighting the connections with material arrangements of everyday practices.


Ajzen, I. (1991). The Theory of Planned Behaviour. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(2), 179–211.

Akrich, M. (1992). The De-Scription of Technical Objects. In Bijker, W.E. & Law, J. (Eds.). Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change (pp. 205–224). Cambridge (USA): MIT Press.

Akrich, M., & Latour, B. (1992). A Summary of a Convenient Vocabulary for the Semiotics of Human and Nonhuman Assemblies. In Bijker, W.E. & Law, J. (Eds). Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change (pp. 259–264). Cambridge (USA): MIT Press.

Alvesson, M. (2003). Methodology for Close up Studies: Struggling with Closeness and Closure. Higher Education, 46(2), 167–193. (Retrieved from

Barrin, M. (2018). Bottled Gold: The Unexpected Side Effects of Recycling in Germany. Geographical. Magazine of the Royal Geographical Society. Available on (Last accessed 18 October 2019).

Beck, U. (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage.

Blue, S., Shove, E., Carmona, C., & Kelly, M.P. (2016). Theories of Practice and Public Health: Understanding (Un)Healthy Practices. Critical Public Health, 26(1), 36–50.

Bortolotti, A. (2019). Assemblages of Private Waste Management and Recycling: The Case of the Anderlecht Marketplace in Brussels. Society and Business Review, 14(2), 174–185.

Boulay, A., Metcalfe, A., Barr, S., & Shaw, G. (2014). Unpacking the Household: Exploring the Dynamics of Household Recycling. Research report Available at (Last accessed 6 May 2019)

Calvino, I. (1993). La Poubelle Agréée. In The Road to San Giovanni (pp. 91–126). New York: Pantheon Books.

Cecere, G., Mancinelli, S., & Mazzanti, M. (2014). Waste Prevention and Social Preferences: The Role of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations. Ecological Economics, 107, 163–176.

Crabu, S. (2017). Dalla Molecola al Paziente. La Biomedicina nella Società Contemporanea. Bologna: Il Mulino.

Dars Ellis, A. (2012). Recyclable Products. In Zimring, C.A. (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage, Vol. 2 (pp. 731–734). London: Sage.

Eurostat (2017). Guidance on Municipal Waste Data Collection. Unit E2, Environmental Statistics and Accounts; Sustainable Development, May 2017. (Last accessed 17 October 2019).

Eurostat (2018). Waste Statistics, December 2018. (Last accessed 17 October 2019).

Geels, F.W. (2011). The Multi-Level Perspective on Sustainability Transitions: Responses to Seven Criticisms. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 1(1), 24–40.

Giardullo, P., & Lorenzet, A. (2016). Techno-Scientific Issues in the Public Sphere (TIPS). European Association for the Study of Science and Technology EASST Review, 35(4), 14–17. Available at

Glad, W. (2018). Spaces for Waste: Everyday Recycling and Sociospatial Relationships. Scottish Geographical Journal, 134(3–4), 141–157.

Greening, L.A., Greene, D.L., & Difiglio, C. (2000). Energy Efficiency and Consumption – The Rebound Effect – A Survey. Energy Policy, 28(6–7), 389–401.

Hargreaves, T. (2011). Practice-ing Behaviour Change: Applying Social Practice Theory to Pro-Environmental Behaviour Change. Journal of Consumer Culture, 11(1), 79–99.

Hargreaves, T., Longhurst, N., & Seyfang, G. (2013). Up, Down, Round and Round: Connecting Regimes and Practices in Innovation for Sustainability. Environment and Planning A, 45(2), 402–420.

Hinton, E.D., Goodman, M.K. (2010). Sustainable Consumption: Developments, Considerations and New Directions. In Redclift, M.R., Woodgate, G. (Eds.), The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology (pp. 245–261). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Hui, A., Schatzki, T., & Shove, E. (2017). Introduction. In Hui, A., Schatzki, T., & Shove, E. (Eds.), The Nexus of Practices: Connections, Constellations, Practitioners (pp. 1–7). London: Taylor & Francis.

Kitchen, L. (2000). Environmental Policy and the Differentiation of Rural Space: An Actor-Network Perspective. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 2(2), 135–147.

Inglehart, R. (1982). Changing Values and the Rise of Environmentalism in Western Societies. Berlin: International Insitute for the Environment and Society.

Latour, B. (1992). Where Are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of Few Mundane Artefacts. In Bijker W.E. & Law J. (Eds.), Shaping Technology/Building Society (pp. 259–264). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Martin, M., Williams, I.D., & Clark, M. (2006). Social, Cultural and Structural Influences on Household Waste Recycling: A Case Study. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 48(4), 357–395.

Mattozzi, A., & Piccioni, T. (2012). A Depasteurization of Italy? Mediations of Consumption and the Enrollment of Consumers within the Raw-Milk Network. Sociologica, 6(3).

Minervini, D. (2010). Politica e Rifiuti. Napoli: Liguori.

Minervini, D. (2013). Governance in a Bottle. In M.J. Zapata Campos & C.M. Hall (Eds.), Organising Waste in the City. International Perspectives on Narratives and Practices (pp. 99–120). Bristol: Policy Press.

Nace T. (2017. We’re Now At A Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute – 91% Of Which Are Not Recycled. Forbes. Available at (Last accessed 20 February 2019).

Piccioni, T. (2010). Sulla Delega alle Macchine. L’Oggetto come Attore Sociale nella Reintroduzione del Latte Crudo tra i Consumi Alimentari. Tecnoscienza. Italian Journal of Science and Technology Studies, 1(1), 11–38.

Postill, J. (2010). Introduction. In B. Bräuchler & J. Postill (Eds.), Theorising Media and Practice, Vol. 4 (pp. 1–34). Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Reckwitz, A. (2002). Toward a Theory of Social Practices: A Development in Culturalist Theorizing. European Journal of Social Theory, 5(2), 243–263.

Schnaiberg, A. (1980). Environment: From Surplus to Scarcity. Oxford University Press.

Shove, E. (2010). Beyond the ABC: Climate Change Policy and Theories of Social Change. Environment and Planning A, 42(6), 1273–1285.

Shove, E., Pantzar, M., & Watson, M. (2012). The Dynamics of Social Practice: Everyday Life and How It Changes. London: Sage.

Shove, E., & Spurling, N. (Eds.). (2015). Sustainable Practices: Social Theory and Climate Change. Oxon-New York: Routledge.

Spaargaren, G., & Mol, A.P. (2011). Environmental Social Sciences and Sustainable Consumption. In D. Southerton (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Consumer Culture (pp. 538–544) London: Sage Publications.

Spaargaren, G., Lamers, M., & Weenink, D. (2016). Introduction: Using Practice Theory to Research Social Life. In G. Spaargaren, D. Weenink & M. Lamers (Eds.), Practice Theory and Research: Exploring the Dynamics of Social Life (pp. 3–25). London: Routledge.

Stahel, W.R. (2016). The Circular Economy. Nature News, 531(7595), 435.

Thomas, C., & Sharp, V. (2013), Understanding the Normalisation of Recycling Behaviour and Its Implications for Other Pro-Environmental Behaviours: A Review of Social Norms and Recycling. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 79, 11–20.

Volonté, P. (2017). Il Contributo dell’Actor-Network Theory alla Discussione sull’Agency degli Oggetti. Politica & Società, 6(1), 31–60.

Walls, M. (2011). Deposit-Refund Systems in Practice and Theory. Resources for the Future Discussion Paper (pp. 11-47). Available at (Last accessed 21 October 2019).

Warde, A. (2014). After Taste: Culture, Consumption and Theories of Practice. Journal of Consumer Culture, 14(3), 279–303.

Watson, M. (2012). Household Waste Recycling. In S.J. Smith, M. Elsinga, O.S. Eng, L.F. O’Mahony, S. Wachter, International Encyclopedia of Housing and Home, Vol. 3 (pp. 234–238). Amsterdam: Elsevier.




How to Cite

Giardullo, P. (2019). Automatizing Green Practices? The Analysis of Reverse Vending Machines as a Re-contamination of Theories of Practices. Sociologica, 13(3), 149–166.