Dario Minervini

The power of PET water

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: water, PET bottle, waste, orders of worth, ontological politics.

Today global arguments against plastic are receiving greater media exposure. The viral and dramatic images of a plastic island floating in the Pacific Ocean as well as of marine animals trapped by waste packaging or contaminated by microplastic particles are constantly displayed even beyond environmental activist circles. Nevertheless, plastic packaging remains all-pervading in most people’s everyday lives. Indeed, it seems to reveal a very powerful socio-materiality that features the above-mentioned contradictory global scenario. This paper focuses on this «power», investigating how the intertwinement between an essential good and a versatile plastic device is translated into shared justifications. A pragmatic theoretical approach and a socio-material sensitivity lead this analysis to the topic of bottled water in order to examine the ways in which different actors consider the assemblage of PET bottles and mineral water as a valuable object. In particular, the article retraces the orders of worth (Boltanski, Thévenot 1991), values and normativities (Law, Singleton 2014) enacting the politics of a disposable object (Hawkins 2015). A «situated» methodology informed this research, collecting the different points of view (judgments, normative arguments, justifications, critiques, etc.) of those actors enacting the plastic bottle assemblage. In particular, interviews with key informants and document analysis were adopted to develop the empirical design. The chain of worth that legitimates bottled water was retraced, from production, through intermediation and logistics, retailing and consumption, to disposal/recycling. In the Conclusions paragraph, the research findings are discussed. A PET bottle represents a mobile, variable geometry and personal infrastructure. It disappears – just from the immediate distance of ordinary perception – once customer needs are met. This is only one example of how the worth of this moral object is enhanced within a contradictory world, where environmental urgencies are claimed by the same people who used to drink plastic bottled water.

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