I have just learned that last week was Recycling Week.
While there is an increasing worldwide dialogue surrounding wastage and its effect on the planet I am not surprised that I missed this occasion. If there is one industry that appears to be turning a deaf ear (pun intended) to this issue it is ours. It is now many years since I was first surprised to learn that some manufacturers were adopting a policy of not carrying spare parts for their lower priced models. If the product fails during the warranty period it is simply binned and you are given a new one. If it fails outside of warranty at best you may be offered an exchange price to swap over for a new one. At worst you simply throw it away and start again.
I am enough of a realist to recognise that there is a price point where it is simply uneconomical to repair a product. However we are now talking about electronic components which in some cases sell for thousands of dollars.
There is a move in Europe to force local manufacturers of appliance and lighting products to carry spare parts for a period of 10 years, and their manufacturing methods must allow for those parts to be replaced simply and with commonly available tools. This has not been extended to the audio-visual industry yet, but I for one would welcome the move if it did. Yes, it may place some upward pressure on prices, but it should also mean that if the product does fail outside of warranty that you can get it fixed rather than throwing it away. The calculations presented by the European Union indicated billions of dollars in savings in other areas.
For many years now Len Wallis Audio has accepted unwanted audio equipment that we clean up, test and then sell giving the proceeds to charity (I hate seeing good audio components waiting for council clean-up). Despite this we still send a considerable amount of product for recycling. Invariably this includes a significant number of flat screen plasma and LCD TV’s which cannot be repaired – I am over being told that a flat screen TV can’t be fixed because it is 3 or 4 years old!
This is highlighted by a current promotion being run by Sonos.
They are offering a 30% trade-in value on a like-for-like trade up programme. The catch is that when you register the serial number of the product you are trading in it is disabled, or as Sonos call it goes into ‘Recycling Mode’ (a simple process seeing all Sonos components have their own IP address). This ensures that it can never be resold as a second-hand product and will need to be scrapped (or as Sonos suggests take it to your ‘local e-waste recycling centre’.
Sonos are not alone in their disregard for the impact of wastage (although few companies have been as blatant). We have a draw full of unsupported iPads, a box full of perfectly good phones, old computers stacked under the staircase, and we recently sent a truck load of out-of-date home automation equipment to recycling (that broke my heart – not only because of the waste, but the cost!!).
I would love to see a return to the days when product was well built, made to last, and engendered some pride of ownership. But then again – I may just be dreaming!