Electronic waste pileup sparks warnings

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We refurbished my home office this week. New cupboards and shelves. As part of that, I cleared out all the old tech that was kicking around that I no longer use.

I had keyboards from the turn of the century, about a dozen old drives that had been laying around for over a decade, waiting to be disposed of. I actually went through and either physically damaged them or secure erased them, before taking them all to the recycling center.

But I do find it horrendous that we are replacing things so quickly. It isn’t surprising, when a new technology arrives, like computers in the 80s and 90s or smartphones at the beginning of this decade. But we have even started to throw out nearly-new devices that previous generations would have had their whole lives, either because they are no longer fashionable or they are just shoddily built.

My mother received a Sunbeam hand mixer as a wedding present in the mid 60s. That thing was used at least once a week, often several times a week, for decades. It held together for around 40 years, before the motor eventually burnt out. 40 years! On the other hand, my wife bought a hand mixer around 2006, it broke in 2010 and its replacement is also dead. And they weren’t cheap imports, they were named brands.

The same with TVs, washing machines, driers, fridges etc. They just don’t seem to last as long as they used to.

The German government and the EU are currently discussing extending the legal guarantee period for white goods to 10 years, to try and get manufacturers to start building quality products again.

The problem is, we don’t really want to pay for quality, yet we complain when the cheap goods fail quickly. The only place we really pay money for are fashion accessories, like high-end smartphones, but they get replaced every couple of years anyway.

If a “cheap and cheerful” fridge costs 200€ and lasts 4-5 years, why not pay 500€ for the same specification of fridge, but built to last 10 - 20 years? But we no longer think like that. The 200€ can be given out for a new device without much worry, by most people, whilst 800€ is a real investment. Okay, that is a generalisation, there are people who will struggle to pay 200€ for a fridge and others who will pay a couple of grand for one with knobs-and-whistles, but that probably won’t last 20 years either.

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