Nostalgia, gift, or nice to have – an analysis of unused products in Swedish households
Paper in proceeding, 2023

Ensuring the reuse of products once they have fulfilled their purpose at their first owner is one way of extending product lifetimes and a central part of circular economy. In Sweden unused products tend to be retained instead of recirculated, 72% of Swedes use half or less of what is stored in their households (Myrorna, 2018). This paper maps unused yet retained products to understand what causes retention, as well as explores barriers for reuse and the products’ reuse potential. Responses from a diary study (n=45), capturing consumption and divestment behaviour were analysed using thematic analysis. Hassenzahl’s (2003) concept of apparent product character was used as a framework to structure insights regarding unused products in households. Almost all participants retained multiple unused products. Analysis revealed three main types; products retained due to emotional value, products perceived as useful in the future, and products to dispose, consecutively mapping into SELF, ACT, and Unwanted character. Barriers to divestment for products of SELF and ACT character relate to their strong hedonic or pragmatic attributes as products embody memories, social relations, and identity, or a potential future utility. Divestment of these product types require detachment from the product. Products with weak hedonic and pragmatic attributes were also retained, but due to challenging disposition processes. This breadth of unused yet retained products indicates a complex relation between attachment, use, and disposition, where reuse potential varies. The discussion reveals that some product groups are suitable for recirculation outside of the household, while others hold potential for reactivation within the household instead.

Product attributes



Product Retention



Karin Nilsson

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Design & Human Factors

Helena Strömberg

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Design & Human Factors

Oskar Rexfelt

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Design & Human Factors

Elin Ljungberg


Sandra Sköld



1799-4861 (eISSN)

978-952-64-1367-9 (ISBN)

The 5th international PLATE conference (Product Lifetimes and the Environment)
Helsinki, Finland,

Mining garage gold - exploring and expanding potentials for increased reuse in Swedish households

Formas (2021-01489), 2022-01-01 -- 2025-12-31.

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories


Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified


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