Obsolescence vs Reuse

January 16, 2008 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment


This is a 2003 iPod. Maybe I got it in 2004 – I honestly can’t remember. Regardless, I know when it stopped working: approximately 2 years ago. And it’s still in my desk drawer. Yup, still there. Why? Because I have no idea what to do with it. Apple has completely shirked the responsibility of disposing of these gadgets which it has successfully managed to distribute worldwide. The company has also successfully managed to design these music machines so that they pretty much self-destruct after about two years, and then are essentially unrepairable.

This is why I no longer own an iPod, and why I also use a PC (hear that, Steve Jobs? Of course you do).

Yes, I have a refurbished PC laptop, which works beautifully and saved me a bunch of mulah. There’s a nice little article about how refurbishing electronics is a great way to reduce waste in the NY Times today. The article also talks about recycling and disposing of cell phones and other small electronics that tend to end up in landfills. Small electronics aren’t only full of copper and other valuable metals that could easily be reused, but they also are highly polluting, often containing lead and mercury and other poisons that really shouldn’t end up rotting underground.

Apple and other electronics companies do a great job of ensuring that their products become obsolete within a couple of years, but they don’t do a very good job encouraging the recycling or reuse of their products. Some other companies do:

HP –  send back old ink cartridges, computers (any brand), and other computery stuff (follow the link) and they’ll get it recycled for you

Radio Shack – you can drop off used batteries and they’ll send them to a recycling center where they are safely recycled and kept out of your groundwater

FedEx/Kinkos – drop off your old cell phones in drop boxes at FedEx/Kinkos locations, and Greenphone will pick it up and recycle it or give it to someone who will use it.

If you google “electronics recycling” and the name of your city or town you’ll probably find another organization locally that helps to keep these products out of landfills. And even better than getting these old and busted electronics recycled is to get them fixed so you can keep using them. I know that this is a tough thing to do in a world where computers are intended to be used and tossed aside on an annual basis, but it’s doable. And if you are in the market for a new machine, try out a refurbished one.

Right now it’s in the hands of the consumer to take action and reduce electronics waste. Personally, I think that manufacturers should be selling machines that are easier to upgrade, repair and reuse. Apple’s new Macbook Air is made with an aluminum shell, which means that it can more easily be recycled. This is great (Steve), but why not make that shell durable, and the hardware exchangeable, so you never have to buy a new Macbook again, you can just continually upgrade this one?

It’s time for electronics companies to take some responsibility and design their products for long-term use. But because the words “company” and “responsibility” haven’t traditionally come hand-in-hand, it’s up to us to keep our obsolete gadgets alive, or at least to do our best to get them recycled.


Entry filed under: clothes, shoes and other goodies (or badies), conservation, rant time, recycling. Tags: , , , , , , .

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