With rising concerns about the social and environmental impacts of industrial and manufacturing waste, scientists and engineers have sought solutions to the burdens of waste which do not simply involve burying, burning, dumping or diluting. Our purpose here is to sketch how social science perspectives can illuminate aspects of the waste problem which are not routinely grappled with within science and engineering perspectives. We argue that if one is concerned about the burdens of waste, it is crucial to understand the way political and cultural contexts shape what happens (or does not happen) in regards to reuse. We sketch some of the challenges facing green manufacturing; challenges that hinge on the gap between the best laid plans and social realities. Rather than imply green manufacturing is simply a post hoc move to hide the excesses of industrial capitalism in the green cloth of sustainability, we hope our discussion can assist those who hope to use green manufacturing as a pre-emptive move to build sustainability into industrial capitalism. We suggest that a socio-political conception of technology can bring greater depth to understandings of the industrial, political and consumer environments into which green manufacturing researchers hope to insert their efforts.