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Social Recycling Transforms Unwanted Goods into Happiness

Grant E. Donnelly, Cait Lamberton, Rebecca Walker Reczek and Michael I. Norton

Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 2017, vol. 2, issue 1, 48 - 63

Abstract: Consumers are often surrounded by resources that once offered meaning or happiness but that have lost this subjective value over time—even as they retain their objective utility. We explore the potential for social recycling—disposing of used goods by allowing other consumers to acquire them at no cost—to transform unused physical resources into increased consumer happiness. Six studies suggest that social recycling increases positive affect relative to trash, recycling, and donations of goods to nonprofit organizations. Both perceptions of helping the environment and helping other people drive this increase in positive affect. We conclude that social recycling offers a scalable means for reengineering the end of the consumption cycle to transform unused resources into happiness. We suggest that further research should continue to enrich a general theory of disposition, such that we are able to maximize the ecological, interpersonal, and community utility of partially depleted resources.

Date: 2017
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