How Gadgets Designed For The Dump Are Killing The Planet

Annie Leonard is back with another engaging and frightening look at how our disposable electronics are trashing the earth. The concept is that our favorite gadgets are “designed for the dump,” because they’re “hard to upgrade, easy to break, and impracticable to repair.” For instance, her DVD player broke and the fix-it guy wanted $50 just to look at it. Why bother when you can get a new one at Target for $39? Something about this system has got to change.


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  1. Burzmali says:

    I don’t see a problem other than that electronics recycling drop-offs aren’t more prevalent. The repair man isn’t going to charge less, and DVD player manufacturers are charging what they think is most likely to make them a profit. The only thing that is likely to change is that recycling will increase.

    • Burzmali says:

      Alright. I admit to posting before watching the whole video. The conditions workers suffer through and the quality of recycling are problematic, too. Cheaply designing electronics to last only a set amount of time isn’t necessarily an issue if the work conditions and recycling are fixed, though.

    • Groanan says:

      Yes, but what if recycling is a bad thing.
      The video mentions that it isn’t “green,” and the reality of it is that it takes manpower, water, and energy (which comes mostly from burning fossil fuels), to recycle.
      Unless we are saving the Earth from being strip mined, I do not see the benefit outweighing the harm.

      The main argument for recycling is that we cannot trash the Earth. I find this argument ridiculous because the Earth cannot tell the difference between San Francisco and a City Dump; we are the only ones who place more value on the manufactured goods stacked in one area as opposed to the other. The Earth does not know the difference between a working iPod lying in my room and a broken iPod lying someplace else.

      Landfills can be made safely, they have been made safely, and we will not run out of landfill space in America. Videos, as the one this article points to, mislead the American public by relying on our unfounded presumptions based on false information spread decades ago by shoddy politicians.

      • mac-phisto says:

        if that’s what you pulled out of this video, you missed a great deal.

        • Groanan says:

          The rest of the video is about the reality of a globalized economy where you have one area living in the 22nd century and another in the 20th to 21st centuries.

          We can’t fix that by buying less, we fix that by buying more and putting more money into their economies, so that one day they can buy the stuff they make, and then outsource manufacturing to someplace lower on the totem pole. When they get enough comfort to be able to sit back and look at their own corrupt governments, they will hopefully revolt and institute better standards for workers (as we did here in America). They will outgrow us, as China and India have/will, and we will be the ones stagnate.

          What the video suggests is socialism. We force all companies to work on the same standard, and we force them to spend less on salaries for executives and to pay more to their overseas workers who lack the bargaining power to demand more, and who chose to work the wage they can get.

          If we forced all companies to work on the same standard, we will lose innovation. We will be stuck with USB 2.0, CDs, and Adobe Flash. There will be no benefit to designing a patent for a new cell phone charging cable because either the entire industry will have to use it, or no one can use it. The incentive today comes from patents and monopolies.

          There is no reason not to design for the dump, 25 million tons of e-waste is absolutely nothing, not even a drop in the bucket. The video intentionally uses such figures because they are incomprehensible to people. What is 25 million? It is a lot right? How does that compare to the mass of the Earth, or space wise if stacked ten meters high, to the surface area of America? How many million tons of drywall are standing in America today? Not mentioned. There needs to be a philosophical / ethical / rational argument for why dumping electronics is wrong. This video is nothing but a chain of heartpulls, relying on previously paid for propaganda to make Americans feel a certain way about certain things without using one iota of their personal experience or critical thinking skills.

          It is a sophist argument of the worst kind.

          • ldub says:

            She gives the argument for why it is wrong: it damages the planet and makes people sick. There is nothing in that video that says capitalism is wrong, or that socialism is the ‘way to go’. She makes an argument against ANY business model that externalizes costs. There is no reason why our particular style of capitalism MUST include that externalization that is causing so many problems.

            • Groanan says:

              The changes the video wants to see require government regulation; companies will not, on their own, reduce their own profits, charge their customers more, and make less competitive products. Doing so would be the sorta thing that gets you fired by the board.

              The reason why parts are not modular today is because innovative companies use proprietary standards to corner their marketplace whenever they come up with something profitable.

              If the government controls the means of production, which is what would have to happen to make this happen, you get socialism.

          • mac-phisto says:

            that is not at all what this video is about – you’re missing virtually everything in it. it brings to light external costs that aren’t computed in manufacturing disposable products & suggests that adjusting design to allow for upgrading is one (of many) possible solutions to solving that problem. NOT simply the problem of landfill space, but ALSO the problems associated with the harvesting of resources, transportation of new products & waste, manufacturing & “recycling” (which in CEs, is more accurately referred to as “metal reclamation” – most of the product is still discarded, but metals are extracted b/c of their high production value. the energy savings for aluminum is 95%, copper 85%, steel 74%, lead 65%, and zinc 60%. manufacturers know this & are willing to pay a premium for these metals).

            you somehow missed all that. the suggestion is not to eliminate innovation – in fact it’s just the opposite. the suggestion is to make products more adaptable to innovations.

            consider homes – do we just throw them away after bathrooms & kitchens become outdated? no, we renovate them. why? b/c the cost of building a new home is more than renovating an existing one. CEs could conceivably be the same way (albeit on a much smaller scale). consider your home computer – average lifespan: 3 years. why? b/c certain elements within a computer become outdated rapidly. a chip. memory boards. GPUs. OSs. yet, 80% of a computer hasn’t changed significantly in 15 years & much of it (the case, the power supply, internal wiring, disk drives, keyboards, mouses…err, mice…or is it meeces?) have incredibly long lifespans. so why are we replacing an ENTIRE computer when we could simply swap a chip or a board?

            b/c much of the cost burden of production is shifted to the consumer. YOU pay for disposal. YOU pay for the pollution. & YOU pay for much of the transportation in between.

            as a side note, it’s interesting that you use “USB” to support your argument, when, in fact, USB is actually the sort of innovation that SUPPORTS a more sustainable production system b/c it creates a standard. not only has this standard resulted in ease-of-use improvements across devices, but it most certainly has resulted in a reduction in waste. THAT is the type of thing this video recommends for the future – universal, easily modified standards across CE products.

            despite your subscription to a neoclassical view of globalization, you should be able to understand & identify with at least some of those ideas.

            • dangermike says:

              A computer is a really bad example for the point you’re trying to prove. You say it yourself: it consists of many modular parts. As such, it represents a nearly ideal situation for upgrading. In fact, part of the decision making process of selecting components for a PC, at least in my experience, is to consider what upgrade paths will be available. It also allows for purpose-built machines that can be more efficient in performing specialized tasks than a more generalized counterpart might be.

            • stormbird says:

              Although I think my politics are to the right of yours, I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. My laptop charger broke so I bought a replacement with 12 different plugs to charge most any model of laptop. There are several companies building chargers that will work for new got-to-have-it electronics so I won’t have to have fifteen chargers in my junk drawer. Desktop computers are relatively easy to upgrade if you know a little bit about electronics; if more things were plugged in rather than soldered to a motherboard then you could just swap parts out like the video says. I’ll never buy an Apple product because they are designed to not be modifiable or repairable by the owner- if your battery fails, you get to send it back and wait a few weeks unless you want to void your warranty.

              Things will be more expensive per unit if they are designed to be upgradable/hackable and to be returned to the maker. If I can buy one thing and then four updrades, the price per year will work out to be lower. The hard part is teaching people to think differently, to think per-year cost versus disposable unit cost.

            • Wrathernaut says:

              This is the most tech ignorant statement I’ve seen in a long time.
              “80% of a computer hasn’t changed significantly in 15 years & much of it (the case, the power supply, internal wiring, disk drives, keyboards, mouses…err, mice…or is it meeces?) have incredibly long lifespans.”

              The case, the ATX standard, yes that still remains usable.
              The power supply? Your 15-year old power supply doesn’t even have enough juice to power up a video card today, let alone the rest of the computer.
              Internal wiring? Do you seriously plan to use an IDE drive today? Even the 4-pin power standard is giving way to SATA power connectors. Not even your power connectors are the same to the motherboard.
              Disk drives? 15 years ago, your hard drive stored what, 250mb? Good luck keeping that in use. Oh, you mean your floppy drive? or are you talking about the read-only CD drive?
              Keyboards, those, yes can last, and many people do carry them over.
              15-year old mice though, may not even have the scroll wheel on them, and use a ball instead of the optic mice that have become the standard, so, no, I wouldn’t keep one.

              The metal case itself hasn’t changed much, the ATX standard remains.

              • Destron says:

                Not to mention that the components such as the BIOS, memory and processors have changed so much that simply “swapping a piece” would no longer work. I Would like to see you jam a P4 processor in to a 486 MB, or plug 6 GB of DDR3 in to a MB that takes SIMMS at 1GB Max?

                What about the newest OS’s that don’t even support the ancient hardware anymore?

                Now, you could argue that a standard would solve this, but then you just create a whole different set of problems. Imagine again if every processor produced since the 486DX2 was required to fit in a Socket 3 slot and run on 3.3V. Technology changes fast, and so do the demands, so replacements are eventually a necessary evil.

              • mac-phisto says:

                i was trying to relate the idea of components as part of a system. obviously i missed the mark. i understand there have been huge changes to virtually every part within a computer, but many of the parts are modular. today’s blu-ray writer fits in yesterday’s cd drive. the system – the way it’s constructed – hasn’t changed much; the individual parts have.

                • mszabo says:

                  For desktop PC’s there certainly is some upgradability, although limited as previous posters mention. I don’t think that really comprises much of the e-waste though. If I were to guess its the portable market that comprises most of the e-waste. Your MP3 player, cellphone, pda, pager, etc. Not much upgradability and there really can’t be, where do you stick an expansion slot on an ipod nano? every millimeter of its internals has been accounted for, you could have designed it larger but then nobody would buy it? Would someone buy an MP3 player the same size as a Sony Walkman nowadays? That’s the size you would need if you wanted to allow for future upgrades.

                  • TouchMyMonkey says:

                    I used to build and upgrade my own computers until I found out that every time I wanted to, say, get a faster processor, I also needed a new motherboard, and new memory, and my hot-stuff sound card wouldn’t fit in any of the slots so I needed a new one of those, etc. PCs used to be upgradable. Not so much anymore.

                • Saltpork says:

                  Actually, you didn’t miss the mark. You’re presenting an idea of reuse and for the most part, your statement has merit.

                  I build my own computers and reuse components constantly. I have a 6 year old PSU running a modern system because I don’t buy crap. Parts designed & manufactured to last will do just that. I had an 8 year old video card I put into a computer for my parents to browse the net with. No longer viable for gaming, but definitely enough muscle to look at eBay.

                  The problem is that we as a society is obsessed with new. We have to have the newest widget or gadget or whatever and something made last year is crap. We constantly trade in or trade up instead of working with what we already use until it does become too old to truly be used.

                  Vehicles are a great example of this. They will run for 20+ years with proper maintenance, but they lose their smell, sheen and eventually start to look like a used car. So we trade it in for all the newest stuff, drive ourselves into massive debt to do it and seem to miss the whole point of buying something that’s well made to start with & sticking through with it through the life of the product.

                  I can’t watch the video while I’m at work, so much of the discussion of the vid is out of my current abilities.

          • peebozi says:

            I hope the government gets out of the business of regulating monopolies…and child labor laws.

            We don’t live in a free market economy so why do you hate America?

    • zrecs says:

      Did you actually watch this video? There seems to be a lot of information you missed.

    • mexifelio says:

      video post time:
      By Ben Popken on November 12, 2010 4:00 PM
      Your comment post time:
      November 12, 2010 4:05 PM
      Video Length: 7:47

      So, either you’ve seen this video in its entirety before, or it is pretty safe to assume you didn’t watch it.

    • shufflemoomin says:

      I worked for a company in the UK that received the goods from an electronic recycling program, and trust me, lots go in a landfill. Anything that is of no value, like cheap metal and plastics, all go in a landfill. Those companies are only interested in profiting from it, not helping the environment.

  2. shepd says:

    I am in absolute agreement that making electronics for the dump is wrong. However, work on it has to be done properly. Doing it through taxes and punitive dump fees (as happens where I am) is absolutely wrong and encourages illegal dumping and wasted money.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I know what it ISN’T.

    • DanRydell says:

      Charging the dump fee at the time of purchase doesn’t encourage illegal dumping.

      • XTC46 says:

        We dont have at-purchase dump fees here. We do have a lot of e-waste fees if you want to properly get rid of a computer or something. Companies like bestbuy do take home electronics for free though, which is cool.

        • hansolo247 says:

          and then ship them to Nigeria and China.

          • ldub says:

            Yep – until American’s “get” that just because it’s out of their house/out of their state/out of their country the item didn’t disappear off the planet, we will continue to shit in our own nest.

      • shepd says:

        No, instead it encourages illegal shopping/tax avoidance and discourages purchasing used electronics (if it is applied to used items, fortunately they didn’t go that far here, and they went absolutely crazy here).

        Charging at the time of purchase also encourages people to purchase items that are cheaper, since they have less money to spend. Cheaper usually means they don’t last as long and have to be dumped sooner because they are unrepairable, perpetuating the cycle.

        Also, most of the “at purchase” charges end up on things that make no sense whatsoever, as they are rarely thrown away or rarely break down, or are not particularly environmentally unfriendly, or are just morally wrong to charge fees like that on. For example, we had those fees on, of all things, full size speakers (that’s the sort of thing most people own for 25+ years, and they’re mostly made of wood), and asthma inhalers (WTF! And that was just half of the weird things.)

        Sometimes the fees can even encourage more waste. The fees on disposable batteries were significantly lower than the fees on rechargeable batteries, and (most likely a regulatory mistake) light bulbs of exactly a certain length were not taxed (thus encouraging people to throw away all their light fixtures and buy new ones that use lights like that, because the fees were that excessive).

        The extraordinary fees lasted 3 days before the government realized they might actually fall over those fees alone.

    • sirwired says:

      The “problem” isn’t necessarily that the electronics are junk. TVs and DVD players today are no more unreliable than a TV or VCR from twenty-five years ago. The “problem” is that we have gotten so good at making DVD players and TVs, that they are trivial to manufacture, which makes the repair costs prohibitive in comparison.

      When we combine that with the fact that many modern electronics CAN’T be repaired (LCD panels, silicon chips, sealed high-precision motors, boards with really tiny surface-mount parts, etc.), of course we toss them in the dump.

      I don’t see any solution other than banning improper disposal. Because I can’t think of any way that you can mandate that they be easier to repair without sacrificing the attributes that make products great.

      • shepd says:

        IMHO, one of the greatest issues is that while the devices are so simple to manufacture, we do not provide owners with the education necessary to repair them.

        A DVD player is so easy to fix, in most cases, there’s no reason the owner couldn’t do it with under $20 worth of tools (that can be re-used for all sorts of stuff). The biggest issues I’ve seen are usually the lasers dying. Swap out the part, and bam, working again. Tray stops moving? Swap out the motor, working. Picture is screwed up? Swap out the logic board.

        Yeah, there’s still some waste there, but making the parts easier to get to and easier to swap wouldn’t cost much more, and would reduce the overall waste by quite a bit. The issue is, the parts are rarely standardized enough to make this possible. :-(

        • SBR249 says:

          and what of the liability issues? What if your (non-EE trained) grandma tried to swap out a power supply and electrocuted herself? What if a part was improperly installed and caused a fire that burned down the house and killed a family? I can’t imagine the manufacturers are willing to take such risks.

          And before you say otherwise, not all consumers are as smart or handy as you are.

          • shepd says:

            A well designed power supply (ie: Not what is typically used internally) will not pass UL/CSA approval if it sets on fire when shorted. Even an internal power supply can (for not much money) have a proper case installed with tamper-resistant screws that would prevent someone from doing anything except shorting it, for which the PSU won’t be permitted for sale (I believe in the US it’s not permitted for connection to public utilities).

            Modern electronics, apart from the PSU, rarely have high voltage sections, and those can all be made into safe, easily replaceable parts that have no danger to the user. Old electronics, like CRTs might have 25kV exposed at almost all times, but when was the last time you saw someone buy one of those? A DVD player, for example, will have a 5 volt, and often a 12 volt supply. You can safely apply those voltages to your tongue directly, as long as you don’t pierce the skin (The 12 volt supply will tingle, of course)!

            (Yes, I know almost all flat panel screens have an HV/HF transformer for the fluorescent tubes, but those could be designed in a modular way that prevents the user from shocking themselves unless they cut into the wire–something they can already do with the mains lead).

            I know there would be an education issue, but you know what? 40 years ago people were opening their TV sets and sending their kids down to the electronics store with all the tubes to see which one fails on the tube tester. We can do that again. It’s not all that hard. A lot of these electronics can even self-diagnose now, so you don’t need the tube tester, you just need a “COMPONENT FAILED” led.

        • sirwired says:

          Swapping out the laser requires pulling the whole transport. For many repairs, you’d be throwing expensive parts at it, which have to be stocked, picked, shipped, and in many cases returned. I’m not sure how you’d set up a viable servicing infrastructure for a DVD player that in many cases only costs a hair more than a DVD.

      • kobresia says:

        I must respectfully disagree.

        I have a Sony CD player from 1983, it was a high-end one from the dawn of that technology. It doesn’t have many features, but it’s built like a tank and outperforms modern CD players that have such things as “oversampling”. I have one Fleetwood Mac disc in particular that only it seems capable of playing, almost every other CD player, and computer CD-ROM struggles and skips because the disc is slightly defective.It’s also outlived dozens of CD players purchased by my friends and family since I acquired it in about 1988, when it was already 5 years old.

        Sure, it was designed to be repaired, but it was also made robustly enough to not break. Its quality is so vastly superior that even used and nearly 30 years old, it’s likely worth more used than most CD players today are worth new. The decline in quality of consumer electronics is sort of like boiling a frog, it’s been such a gradual decline that it’s hard to notice it decrementing, but take something from 25 years ago and compare it to a brand-new counterpart, and you would be shocked at what utter rubbish the new stuff is.

        • HogwartsProfessor says:

          I agree with this comment and add that while the quality is going down, the price keeps going UP, so when I do replace my progressive pieces of junk, eventually I won’t be able to afford them any more. That’s the part that bugs me the most.

    • Firethorn says:

      It’s actually a formula. If you can make a part that’s twice as reliable, 20% more efficient, and costs half as much at the expense of making it ‘non-repairable’, it’s probably worth it to do so, especially as reliablity approaches 100% anyways.

      $50 is pretty standard for the cost of 1 hour of labor*. You may literally spend an order of magnitude more human labor fixing an electronics product today than went into making it.

      Would YOU want to pay 50% more for a product that’s ‘fixable’, at the expense of having to pay to get it fixed more often at $$$, when you can have a product that costs less to replace than a service call?

      All I’d consider doing is require longer, more comprehensive warranties – then manufacturers might make their products to last longer as well.

      *Remember, the employee costs the employer far more than what he makes per hour – there’s benefits, insurance, premises, utility, training, and tools to consider.

    • q`Tzal says:

      Why shouldn’t there be punitive dumping fees?
      Shouldn’t there be a cost associated with the disposal of a material when it produces a negative affect on the environment?

      Let’s start with an easy example:
      > I dump hot coals from my barbecue grill across the fence in to your yard. It burns down something on your property; should I not be responsible for the results of my dumping?
      > I dump acid or caustics from engine parts cleaning, or maybe I’m tanning leather, and I pour the waste at the back of my property. The run off poisons your family vegetable garden; should I not be responsible for the results of my dumping?

      The act of tossing anything in to a trash container with a lid takes that out of sight and out of mind; it never leaves us and from the stand point of recycling E-waste is a source of all of the rare elements and minerals that we spend so much money to mine.

      For a proven commercial solution to a similar problem look no further than the lead recycling industry. The lead battery industry reported a recycling rate of 99.2%, steel cans are a distant 2nd place at 60%. This is partly due to the core charge; an extra charge up front when purchasing a lead battery that is refunded on return of the waste battery.
      Perhaps these companies could charge a sort of “resource fee” for the cost of metals and rare earth elements inside that would ordinarily be buried in a land fill requiring more mining later.

      • roothorick says:

        Punitive dumping fees are a textbook example of an unenforceable law. In every area with punitive dumping fees, illegal dumping reigns supreme. You might as well try to ban alcohol.

        • MrEvil says:

          Look at any state that has a high tire disposal fee. You end up with illegal tire dumps in the back woods where nobody will ever see them. Then the government has to spend your tax dollars to hire a company to collect and haul away the tires. It’s a vicious cycle. If however there was a core charge or deposit (as we do with batteries) for your old tires you’d NEVER see a single illegally dumped tire ever again. In fact you’d have hobos fighting over collecting illegally dumped tires in order to collect the deposit/core charge.

      • shepd says:

        Considering these dumps were designed to be safe for electronics, and they never exploded nor set on fire from electronics before, nor did (modern) dumps poison anyone, and that you are *supposed* to put garbage in a dump, this is like your neighbour complaining because he put a hot coals dumping area on his property, with a sign that says it’s for public use, and then him being upset because his poorly designed dump burned down his home.

    • kobresia says:

      I understand what you’re saying, I think that maybe, the dump fees should just be charged up-front, just like lead-acid battery environmental fees.

      Ultimately, though, consumers just have to be less short-sighted.

      Until durability standards are set for durable goods, and non-trivial fees are assessed for all, consumers will continue to make foolish decisions.

      Let’s say all new TV sets and computer displays will have a $40-per-inch environmental fee. Since it doesn’t cost all that much more to make a serviceable set, you’ll find those would suddenly become popular, since the overall cost would make it a bit prohibitive to buy a new TV ever few years, and of course resale value on used units would remain reasonably high, since the fee would only apply to new sets. Repairs would also be cost-effective. Problem solved.

      However, it’s just not going to happen. Manufacturers don’t like that, and will fight such fees every step of the way. They have a perverse incentive to make shoddy goods that become obsolete or otherwise unserviceable within a matter of years, so the consumer will have to go purchase a replacement. And of course, if there isn’t much of a used market, since the product is prone to failures, then the consumer will have to buy a new product.

      That’s why I shop curbside at the city recycling center, where everything is free for the taking (even though scavenging is discouraged). There are lots of older, yet completely serviceable things to be had there, which people foolishly discarded in favor of something new. Things like my classic Royal vacuum cleaner, which is sturdy, simple, and made of metal rather than flimsy plastic. I’ll probably still be using it long after the Dyson, or whatever the people who discarded it replaced it with, has failed and is a bunch of plastic shards in the landfill. In general, it is eye-opening how much new stuff that should last a whole lot longer tends to wind-up there, broken and unrepairable, which is why I tend to only scavenge stuff over 15 years old.

    • Michaela says:

      Luckily, some people seem to be doing it the right way. My school has one of the best industrial design programs in the nation, and they are really pushing the idea of products that can use universal parts while still looking/feeling unique.

  3. obits3 says:

    If only their was a way to change people’s mindset from buying new cars, to “upgrading” their cars every 7 to 10 years (e.g. Paint jobs, new engine, replace tape player with CD player, etc…)

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I’ve always had the idea of designing cars to be assembled with standard, interchangable parts. Meaning, you start with a universal frame, where all the components fit at the same locations with the same bolt locations, etc. Connections for all parts would be the same regardless of manufacturer or model. So, when your engine fails, for example, there no need to worry about it fitting with any other component. All engine blocks would be universal; perhaps there would be one setup for compact, mid-size, full-size, semi/heavyduty, etc.

      Obviously, this is a simplied idea that requires some tweaking, and certainly requires voluntary compliance from an industry that purposesly makes car components unique to ensure exclusivity.

      • obits3 says:

        I like. I like.

        The only reason people should get new cars should be because they want a different frame (e.g. Sedan to Truck). There should be an easy way to change the media devices out and certian things like shocks should be universal for each frame by now.

        • "I Like Potatoes" says:

          Funny – all of my car purchases (except my first) were necessary because of increasing family size. Started off with a sporty two seater, got pregnant and bought a small sedan, pregnant with third kid & bought a station wagon, got pregnant with fourth and upgraded to a mini-van. I should have this one for a long time…

      • balthisar says:

        Parts are designed as much in common as much as possible. The apparent uniqueness of parts has everything to do with engineering requirements and packaging.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          But framing and design of larger components of a car are often custom-designed for that model. Some car manufacturers do use the same frame or other major components across 1-3 models, but that’s pretty rare.

          Imagine if one frame was used to all sedans, and the same door, trunk, hood, interior, etc. would all fit the same frame. They don’t have to all LOOK the same, but they are connect at the same points.

          Part of the cost of complicated items such as cars is that every design piece is custom and not interchangeable across manufacturers.

          • obits3 says:

            Maybe we should go back to the ford way:

            “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black”

            -Henry Ford

      • Jimmy60 says:

        And with no possible way to differentiate from each other in the market place we’d only need a single, state run, manufacturer.

        Why do you hate America? :-)

    • Southern says:

      But if nobody buys news cars, there won’t be much OF a Used Car market. :-)

      I’m in the same mindset as you, though – I’d rather buy a 5 year old used car and “fix it” than buy a new one. Your cost per year is significantly reduced, and your resale value doesn’t drop nearly as fast.

      • obits3 says:

        I think that you should get a 10% tax credit for maintenance done on any car 10 years or older. Some of these cars don’t get the best MPG, but I think that the impact in the environment is less overall.

    • Groanan says:

      I am still waiting for Lego to get into the automobile industry.

    • duncanblackthorne says:

      I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or serious.
      I tried that once. I had a car made in 1978. It got repainted. When the engine wore out, I replaced it. Same with the transmission. I rebuilt the entire front suspension myself. I literally spend thousands of dollars on the concept that if you just rebuild and repair as necessary, it’ll never really “wear out” and you can keep driving in indefinitely. Know what happened? Some stupid person came around the wrong side of the island while I was sitting stopped at a left turn lane, hit me head-on, and did major damage to the front of the car. The insurance company settlement? $800. That’s right, less than $1000 total. I showed them receipts that were less than a year old from all the work I’d done to it, and know what they did? They laughed. I took them to court. Know what happened there? Nothing. I got NOTHING. Know what I learned from this? Never again. I will NEVER AGAIN spend large amounts of money on repairing a car that isn’t intrinsicly worth it if it gets totalled in a wreck.

      THIS was not my fault. It’s the fault of the way the world works. Do you have some magical idea how to change the way then ENTIRE world full of 7 billion people think? Then go do it. Me, I don’t believe.

      • obits3 says:

        True, there are some insurance problems. The insurance industry could fix this by insuring amounts rather than the car. For example, I pay $XXX a year to get up to $5,000 of collision coverage. I do have a question:

        Were your premiums less do to the age of the car? If they were, then you might not have gotten as bad a deal as you think. I’ve always been told to drop collision coverage after so many years for the issue you brought up.

        Also, did you sue the driver? I’m not sure about the laws, but maybe you could have gotten a judgment. It is a long shot, but just a thought.

        • MrEvil says:

          Dude lost when he took the insurance to court (which is what happens when a driver is insured) I doubt he’d have a case against the other driver at that point.

  4. catskyfire says:

    In a perfect world, things would be built to last longer, but that’s not very profitable.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    The change you are requesting would result in signigicantly higher prices on materials.

    The trend is due to two factors. Our ever-changing/evolving technology, and the shift to cheaper materials.

    Companies don’t want you to buy an item and use it forever, and neither do you. Technology changes too fast, and you (society) want newer products as they come out. Thus, companies went down the path of creating cheap, disposable products that allow you to upgrade with each subsequent purchase.

    • Dover says:

      I came here to say this. Even things that still work get dumped pretty often because they are obsolete. Making items higher quality and upgradable (or at least recyclable) could be a solution, but it might be hard to sell it consumers because nobody can predict what the upgrade/recycle value of the product might be in the future.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        I had the same thought. But designs change so often, and it’s difficult to coordinate with the hundreds of designers and manufacturer’s. It would really require federal laws to create some form of universal manufacturing.

        I think the best example of e-cycling would be a PC computer. The frame is usable forever, and all the internal components are easily replaceable and generally compatible with each other. You just have to make everything backwards compatible.

      • OutPastPluto says:

        Any device should not fail until it has become woefully obsolete and has been pawned off on at least one set of extra owners. This is an ideal that an automobile should live up to but often times doesn’t.

        Companies shouldn’t be selling crap and consumers shouldn’t be buying it.

    • MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

      “Companies don’t want you to buy an item and use it forever, and neither do you.”

      Yes, I do. There are many items I would like to buy and use forever, or at least for my lifetime. I would certainly like for them to last more than 2 or 3 years, which seems to be the lifetime for many cheap electronic items.

      I would much rather spend $400 on DVD player that would last 20 years instead of paying $50 for a cheap piece of junk at Walmart. When technology makes that player obsolete, then fine. I’ll buy whatever’s new.

      25 years ago we bought a KitchenAid mixer for what seemed like a ton of money, but it’s still running fine, despite being used weekly. That was money well spent.

      I wish some American company would come out with a line of appliances/electronics/etc. that was built to last decades (post-modern quality) AND (using modern computerization) when failures happen be easy to diagnose and replace. Even if the cost was several times higher than modern built-to-dispose-of junk. But, most people are too short-sited for that to be profitable.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        I meant you don’t want to use the technology item forever.

        Unless you’re super into Betamax tapes…

      • Powerlurker says:

        The likelihood that you’ll still be watching DVDs in 20 years is pretty close to zero. Especially when a $50 DVD player functions essentially the same as a $400 model, there’s really no reason to purchase a more expensive model.

      • Megalomania says:

        not to burst your bubble, but those DVDs won’t last 20 years, sooooo

  6. jessjj347 says:

    That’s what happens when labor in the U.S. costs more than China…

    • CountryJustice says:

      The issue isn’t the products, it’s the labor that builds them.

      The labor that manufactures the parts that your repair man buys and uses is the same (quality/value/approximation of) labor that manufactures the finished new products that your local retailer sells. Your repair man can’t buy parts in the same volume that the manufacturer can, and as a result he probably can’t spread out his own labor costs in the same way a manufacturer/wholesaler/retailer chain can.

      Nothing is going to change until we can shift the end-game paradigm away from “cheap labor = cheaper products = happier consumers.” I’m not even suggesting that everything has to be made in the USA again (though that would be nice). I’m simply suggesting that regardless of origin of manufacture, labor costs should be even across the board. But then you start getting into things like currency value manipulation, and it’s never as cut-and-dry as it first seems.

      • jessjj347 says:

        Yeah, you make some good points.

        I’m not sure I completely follow your last point, “But then you start getting into things like currency value manipulation, and it’s never as cut-and-dry as it first seems.”

        Are you referring to it being difficult to equalize labor, because currencies differ (and are artificially manipulated)?

    • Josuah says:

      A machine is what built the product in the first place. Quickly, efficiently, and in large quantity for a low manufacturing cost. If you can get repairs to happen in the same way, then the cost of repair can go down to the cost of manufacturing. I don’t think we’ve reached that level of technology yet, though.

      It really doesn’t have a whole lot to do with different labor costs in different locations. You shouldn’t view things with an US vs. THEM mentality. Industry should take place in the optimum location. That’s the whole point of trade. Fair trade maximizes the benefit for all parties involved.

      So, part of the reason it costs more to repair is because you want it repaired quickly and by someone local. If you were willing to drive (fly/sail) to a farther away location where people costs are lower, you could get it repaired for a lower price. Or, given economies of scale, if you were to bring 100 units broken in the same way for repair, you could also get it repaired for a lower price per unit.

      • jessjj347 says:

        But going farther away to get the cheapest labor makes the cheap labor more expensive. There are costs to travel.

        My point about labor is that maintenance on electronics outside of China (or some other place where labor is cheap) is going to cost more because labor costs more. Sure, machines are manufacturing the electronics, but people are still working in those facilities making crap wages. The most obvious example would be anyone working in quality assurance. There is always some sort of testing of the product. There also may be people assembling some parts, etc.

  7. sir_eccles says:

    There may be many unseen upsides to just buying a new DVD player. The new player probably has a lower standby energy usage, used less environmentally toxic chemicals in the production of its electronics which were soldered on with lead free solder.

    And just before someone says something like “they don’t make them like they used to” there are things made in every era that either break instantly or seemingly last forever.

    • shepd says:

      Yes, lead free.

      No, not better.

      Lead free solder uses antimony. Antimony is called that because it killed so many monks. It’s quite a deadly substance and warrants the name.

      Lead free solder also makes a poorer joint in all uses, which means the device breaks sooner and ends up in the dump sooner.

      Modern (and by modern I mean newer than say, 3 decades old) landfills are designed well enough lead doesn’t leach from them.

      But RoHS sure feels good, don’t it?

      • HDTVTECH says:

        You are absolutely right about the lead free solder. Recent studies show that it will likely be 10 to 15 years before lead free connections achieve the reliability of their leaded counterparts. The push for GREEN has pushed one poor solution after another on an unsuspecting public. Another example is CFL’s (compact florescents). Yes, they are supposed to be disposed of carefully because of the mercury, but how many are simply tossed by lazy consumers thereby dumping mercury in the environment. And the industries that need reliability “opt out” the lead free route. Ask Hughes Electronics (parent of DirecTV) and the US military. Hughes opted out when they lost 2 satellites directly attributable to lead free failures. And the US military opted out after repeated failures on the F15, M1A and F14 projects

  8. quoterageous says:

    This is news to me, but I am happy I took the time to watch it. I am an electronics junkie and I really do have a ton of old gadgets laying around I will toss out soon.
    Now I feel like a part of the problem.

  9. tedyc03 says:

    I’m not worried because the Republicans are going to be in charge now, and I know they’ve got an excellent environmental record.

    • balthisar says:

      Yes, because you’re impotent on the local, county, and state level, and can’t possibly envision cleaning up your own local messes first.

    • hansolo247 says:

      This gal has Moore’s law all wrong.

      Moore’s law states that the NUMBER OF TRANSISTORS on an integrated circuit of minimal cost (basically a specific size) will double every 18 months.

      It means things get SMALLER. Speed is something else, but is related, but not guaranteed by Moore’s law.

      • Promethean Sky says:

        This is something that continually infuriates me. It’s called Moore’s Law, but in reality, it’s more like Moore’s Notion. One day, he was like “Hey, it seems that up to this point, the speed of computers is doubling every 18 months.” Ever since then, it has been taken out of context, and used to set the pace of tech development, regardless of whether our current technology allowed faster processors at the time, or if we’ve run into some hard physics limit. Notice how all processors are multi-core now? That’s because they’ve just about maxed out trasistor switching speed and we’re stalled about 3 gigahertz. Fun fact: due to RAM limitations, multi-core architecture is only practical up to about 16 cores, so there will have to be another fundamental design change then.

    • morehalcyondays says:

      Yes, it was after all Richard Nixon who signed the EPA into law…

  10. Rask says:

    Has anyone showed this to Steve “12 month refresh cycle” Jobs?

    • donjumpsuit says:

      Personally, I upgrade my iPhone every 12 months. (didn’t do it from 3G to 3GS). This is absolutely not a problem, because my used iPhone is still a valuable second hand commodity that is highly regarded. (This also factors into Apples marketing)

      • hansolo247 says:

        But it all makes no sense…it’s marketing driven.

        A used or new iphone has about a $100-$200 cost difference over 2 years (at least $2400). That’s nothing. It’s just not rational to buy a used iPhone or any used phone.

        their computers, though made from aluminum and glass, are produced using an EXTREMELY high amount of energy, all from Chinese power plants. they are also next to impossible to actually disassemble, so they will likely NOT be recycled. Greenwashing at its best.

      • macruadhi says:

        Your statement only proves how much of a fanboy you are. I too got sucked into thinking the 3gs was the greatest of all time. Since then I have found my new Galaxy S to be much more capable than my iphone. And much less restrictive. My phone has 16 Gb as it is,(same as the iPhone.) but with the insertion of a new micro SD, I can double it’s capacity, and do it much more cheaply than an iPhone.

        • bluecoyote says:

          Whoa there fanboy, calm down. It’s great you view your Samsung as less restrictive, but you know the inconsistent compatibility plaguing that specific device? You know, why Skype had to pull support for the Galaxy S because of stability issues? Having a unified platform alleviates that.

    • Groanan says:

      You don’t have to upgrade every cycle as a consumer.
      As a producer of electronics, if you don’t upgrade every year, you go out of business.
      Are you really arguing that Apple should wait every two years to release new products?
      And if Apple did do that, how would it help? It is not like everyone upgrades every time that they can, wouldn’t you just be delaying the mass upgrade?

      • quail says:

        As a consumer you don’t have to. But then again the iPod and many other of Jobs devices are built so that you can’t replace the battery much less take it apart without destroying it.

    • Sword_Chucks says:

      My macs are 5 years old and 6 years old… its not everyone who buys each new refresh

  11. sirwired says:

    There are multiple reasons they are expensive to repair compared to the device cost:

    1) This isn’t usually because of lazy engineering, it’s because to make your DVD player easy to repair, it’d have to be about the size of a desktop PC. And be way more expensive. (And not necessarily one bit more reliable.) I’m not going to make that tradeoff, are you?

    2) Things like LCD panels themselves are simply impossible to repair, period. It’d be like repairing the inside of an old-fashioned CRT. Isn’t gonna happen.

    3) A $50 diagnostic fee is perfectly reasonable for a skilled technician to do anything. Do you want devices to cost ten times more (with no more functionality) just to make the repair more “worth it”? If you like, I’ll be more than happy to charge you $500 for a DVD player if that will make you feel better.

  12. Groanan says:

    How is the dump a bad thing? They find a place with little to no ground water, they put a huge diaper below it, and they stack crap to the sky.
    We have plenty of space for waste, America is huge, there is no shortage of landfills.
    Today’s landfills do not leak into our drinking water (even though our drinking water is probably already teaming with shrimp, estrogen, natural gas, and mercury).

    Who cares if they are trashed; recycling costs water and electricity, and technology improves so fast that you can feel the improvements cycle to cycle.

    • Snoofin says:

      Agree 100%. Also all these electronics came from materials mined from the earth so why cant they go back to where they came from

    • Master Medic: Now with more Haldol says:

      “The Dump” will be a veritable treasure trove of amazing value in hundreds of years. Full of un decomposed and likely readily available metals and plastics just waiting to be recycled. Companies will be founded on the “mining” of The Dump and fortunes will be made.

      The Dump is not a bad thing, but one that will be a higly priced and competitive commodity in the future. Too bad I can’t live 300 years to capitalize on my brilliance. And if I’m wrong, meh, I’ll be long dead so who cares.

    • ldub says:

      “Today’s landfills do not leak” ORLY??? Citation, please.

      • Groanan says:

        Google “Modern Landfill Safety” and read what regulations require and what landfill operators are currently doing.

        The major problem is water contamination, and this can be prevented by building far from water, and using electronic sensors and test wells near landfills to see if any did leak.

        The entire culture of landfill management has changed from apathy or don’t ask / don’t tell, to environmental conservatism.

        I wonder though, what sort of citation would make you believe modern landfills are safe?
        If at the end of the day you still feel that they are unsafe, please look into how safe recycling is so that you can compare the two.

        • ldub says:

          What sort of citation? A peer reviewed study of all “modern” landfill showing that there have been no leaks and there will be no leaks, because that’s what you posited more that once in this forum.

          I’ve got plenty of links – some if which reference such studies – showing that they do, in fact, leak.

          At best, the engineering studies will note that “in theory, there should be no leakage”. That’s a far cry from a guarantee. Which means that a landfill solution for toxic chemicals should be used judiciously if at all.

          • Groanan says:

            So you want them to prove a negative before you buy into the concept, fine.
            But this isn’t just a quandary over whether or not landfills are perfectly safe, that would be pointless, this is a comparison between two alternative routes of dealing with garbage.

            Driving it and stacking it into a pile


            Driving it to a factory, washing it, melting it down, shredding it, using some of it again, tossing the rest in that same pile it would have been in before, and doing all of this at a much higher economic cost

            Then consider how much harm a toxic landfill could wreck, the odds of it happening using current technologies, and the cost of cleanup and if cleanup is possible.

            Consider how much electricity the recycling plant uses, where that power comes from (usually fossil fuel burning – coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel to burn that puts out radiation, pollutes the air, and harms the people and wildlife living in the area) and compare that harm against the harm of leaving things in a pile in an area with little groundwater.

            Consider the extra cost of recycling and see what good that money could be spent on alternatively, like cleaning up already polluted land.

            Add in the value that comes from gathering natural gas from landfills.

            And once you have looked at the entire situation, make a judgement call.

            That is what this country is missing, the mantra that recycling is good, and that landfills are bad, is based on propaganda, it is a common presumption that needs actual intellectuals dissecting and reevaluating on a case by case basis because otherwise we are pissing the environment away under the mistaken belief that we are making things better.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      You’re making an assumption that all landfills in use are modern. My city’s landfill is not in EPA compliance (it’s unlined) and it’s cheaper for my city to pay the fines than it is to line a 150 year old dump.

  13. donjumpsuit says:

    Problem = People.

    I don’t buy a cheap netbook, that is already obsolete, that won’t perform the most basic tasks on purchase, that is made from cheap components from even cheaper manufacturing processes, just because my old “notebook” is a PC infected with viruses, and bloatware, and controlled with an operating system that is rife with errors.

    I pay more upfront, for a longer period of use. I pay more up front, because it makes me cherish the object for longer, as it took more effort and resources to purchase. I use it more, because of this, and analyze my purchasing decision for a longer period of time. This makes certain I am not tossing away my money on something that I will be shortly replacing with several other solutions.

    I realize this example covers computers, and/or cars, but it remains relevant. I am not going to buy a $400 toaster because of this premise, but then again, if I made toast every day, I just might.

    The problem is people. Such a tremendous drive for bargains, and sales, has taken the decision process out of our hands, simultaneously making us appreciate the purchase less, knowing if it breaks, or doesn’t live up to expectations, it didn’t cost that much to begin with, combined that it was purchased on credit, which isn’t a relative assessment of us using our hard earned resources to acquire.

    As a society we should demand quality over quantity/price. Don’t force electronics providers to step in line through legislation, fines, or penalties, force them to step in line through a return to quality. Of course, this will never happen, if you ever watched an episode of “Hoarders” you know what I mean.

    • Jimmy60 says:

      I agree.

      I would also add that in many of the categories this woman is complaining about, such as her DVD player, there does exist the type of product she is referring to. When she bought her DVD player why didn’t she spring $3000 for a top of the line Denon? It probably would never need repair and it would be worth repairing. Sadly BluRay has also rendered it obsolete which is a big part of why much of this stuff is so cheap.

      Also, who decides what the minimum standard is going to be? You can buy a home theater in a box for $150 or you can buy a pair of speakers for $150,000. That cheap unit is destined for the dump but those $150,000 speakers will likely never see a dump. Ever. Should speakers all be made to that standard or should everyone be able to own a stereo?

      I tend to prefer the better electronics and when I think back have actually thrown away very little electronics compared to most other household items. I’ve thrown away more weight in cereal boxes than electronics.

      • LadyTL says:

        How has Blu-ray rendered DVDs obsolete? There is still plenty of DVDs out for sale, with both movies and games. There is still plenty of blank DVDs out for sale. As far as I can tell from the internet stores there is no sign of phasing out DVDs either. It’s not even that large of a quality difference. You have to spend much more on your entertainment equipment to get an appreciable difference than the difference in cost between a DVD and Blu-ray.

  14. ChuckLez says:

    Honestly, I lost her at “I can’t find the charger for my computer”. I couldn’t help but laugh at the video (although trying to bring to light a growing issue, does a REALLY HORRIBLE job at doing so)

    • ldub says:

      In your opinion, right?

      Because I enjoyed it and learned from it as have the millions of people who’ve seen these “Story of Stuff” videos and dvds.

  15. Technologirl says:

    2 ways to fix that.

    Don’t buy Apple.

    Don’t buy junk.

    • weshigh says:

      All electronic makers have environmental issues, Apple is activity making changes to help reduce the problem. They are doing pretty much all the things listed in the video.

    • tooki says:

      According to the prestigious German computer magazine c’t, Apple is the ONLY computer/consumer electronics manufacturer who has made any meaningful steps to reducing toxics. Only Apple has eliminated PVC, BFRs, mercury, etc from ALL its products (except for PVC power cords, which are required by law in many countries).

      Apple is also the only manufacturer to visit its suppliers (Foxconn, etc) to audit their worker conditions.

      Is there room for improvement? Always. But of all the companies making electronics, Apple is the one you WANT to buy if you care about responsibility. No other company seems to give a shit.

      • OutPastPluto says:

        That would be quite a trick considering that a Mac is little more than a Dell or a Sony with a different brand name slapped on it. The bulk of the product is still produced by 3rd parties that Apple doesn’t really have any control of. A C2D in a Dell is much the same as one in a Mini. The same goes for an i945 or nv9400. Most of the potential for “progress” is probably in the upstream suppliers.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      I didn’t watch the video. I’ll admit that up front.

      However, my iMac from 2007 is working far better than any three year old Dell I’ve seen. Apple also is one of the few manufacturers that’s actually putting thought into the environmental impact of their devices.

      Additionally, just because Apple as a company releases new products every 12 months doesn’t mean you have to go replace your old one right away. If everyone who bought an original MP3 player waited for it to break before replacing it we’d probably just be getting color iPods right now, the iPhone (and the current generation of smartphones) would be a wishful dream, and the DVD would be modern technology.

    • bluecoyote says:

      Could you elaborate on the first point?

      • OutPastPluto says:

        Apple’s aren’t built to be upgraded or repaired by the end user. Period.

        If you happen to have a 3 year old Mac Mini, it doesn’t matter how “reliable” it is. You will find that no games support it. It also isn’t any more reliable than a Dell or Sony. So that leads to the problem of replacing broken or obsolete components.

        That’s pretty trivial with a normal PC. Even a lame normal PC offers some degree of accessable upgradability.

        It costs $2400 to buy a Mac intended to be maintained by the consumer.

  16. photoguy622 says:

    …and yet just a couple of stories down we can read all about Best Buy’s super cheap 720p plasma.

  17. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    “For instance, her DVD player broke and the fix-it guy wanted $50 just to look at it. Why bother when you can get a new one at Target for $39? Something about this system has got to change.”

    No it doesn’t. And in fact, there’s no possible way it could change.

    Electronics repair is a highly skilled job. $50 an hour is probably pretty decent for that kind of work…making the assumption that the repair guy simply lists a one-hour minimum charge. Because of the fact that you require a lot of skill and knowledge to do any kind of electronics repair, it’s never going to be cheap…and let’s face it, if it cost $10 to repair a $39 DVD player – would you have it repaired even then? Our would you plunk down the $39 for a brand-new unit with a warranty again?

    Consumer electronics, especially on the low end, are price-driven to the lowest possible point by market demands and competition. If somebody can produce a DVD player that can be sold for $39 and still make money doing it, then that’s exactly what they should be doing.

    Try declaring that all consumer electronics must cost at least $500 in order to justify having people pay to repair them instead of throwing them away…let’s see how that works out.

    …so what, exactly, “has got to change?”

  18. booboloo says:

    I’m sure you guys would be happier with a 500 dollar dvd player with replacable parts…..

  19. hmburgers says:

    As one of the “genius” people who designs this stuff I can say with 100% certainty that this is not a matter of a “rich CEO” getting richer off the poor masses… you have multiple companies all working in a “race to the bottom” when it comes to price (and quality, but indirectly).

    Repair will NEVER be feasible on the vast majority of consumer electronics, but especially items below $300, because there is no one in the US who is capable of performing a repair and willing to work for a sufficiently low wage to perform the repair.

    Take Back programs are not the answer either because it’s not possible to ensure that a company that produces a product is able to recycle a product at some future point–they may be out of business, etc. What needs to happen is that state run recycling programs need to be developed and costs applied at sale time to these electronics to handle their eventual disposal–Yes, it’s an unfair policy in some regard, but it’s also pretty much the only way to a guarantee success.

    Some are going to say “But that just passes the costs on to the consumer!” … of course it does… do you think it would be any other way if the costs were hidden in the form of take back programs that the companies are required to fund?

    MOSTLY the problem is changing technology… too many people want the latest or most fashionable items, that’s the REAL problem with our society. How many people remodel a kitchen with a complete tear out just because of style changes? Real change must come in the form of reduced consumerism.

  20. Razor512 says:

    Thats why most companies hate when people jailbreak, Most new devices especially smart phones,other than a new look will often have very similar internal hardware and the features that attract the customers are the software features. jail breaking allows users to get those new features with out the need of new hardware.

    • Razor512 says:

      Also wanted to add, I have a dell axim x51v

      it is from 2005, we are now nearing the end of 2010 and I am still using it. I have since then through a much simpler jailbreaking process, upgraded to windows mobile 6.5 and are able to run the latest windows mobile apps and enjoy browsers like skyfire and opera mini and opera mobile and many other new apps. I have the 624MHz CPU overclocked to 800MHz

      Since I live in the city, I can use wifi as where ever I go, I have a very high chance of there being a hotspot in range, so no overpriced cell phone data plan, and through google voice, I can send and receive text messages, and with skype for windows mobile, I can send and receive calls

      If dell took steps to prevent people from completely replacing the OS, the device would have only been useful for about 1-2 years before it lost app support.

      People are still making apps for windows mobile and everything is still going great.

      When the hardware becomes too slow for what I need to do, I will then consider upgrading to a better device but for now, the 6 year old device is still going strong.

  21. SilentMountain says:

    My wife bought me a disposable electric toothbrush. I feel despicable every time I use it. Sigh…

  22. zantafio says:

    We need to figure a way to make cargo rocket cheap to launch. Then we can put our e-waste in a rocket and blast it off to the sun.

  23. nyCecilia says:

    I have a 900mhz Panasonic telephone that is great for me, I think I paid $25 for it, new. But it’s getting old, and the buttons won’t push properly anymore. I don’t want to buy a whole new phone for a myriad of reasons, but I would like to fix this one. Intellectually I am quite certain that if I could take it apart, I could probably swab the contacts where the keys are and it would function properly again. (I’m guessing the issue is dust, kitchen grease, cat hair).

    But I can’t get it apart, even though I’m fairly handy with these things. I’ve searched the web for instructions but not found much. I have tried calling and emailling Panasonic for instructions, but the only “help” they’ll give me is tell me to pay a Panasonic repairman (and it will cost a bundle). A replacement headset will cost over $100 as well…apparently I’m not the only one who likes these phones, and since they’re no longer made, the market value for replacement parts has gone up and up.

    I can’t for the life of me understand the commenters who can’t see what is wrong with this picture.

  24. jason in boston says:

    The earth was fine before humans, the earth will be fine after humans.

    • ldub says:

      Yeah….. I’d kind of like to keep it fine FOR humans. I don’t anyone is arguing that the planet will explode and disappear if we don’t do a better job cleaning up after ourselves.

  25. george69 says:

    its called planned obsolescence.

    its built into most things at the engineering stage

  26. KyBash says:

    In the long run, it’s actually quite a bit “greener” to make them disposable. To make the same item repairable requires an increase in the number of parts, size of parts, energy used to produce and transport, and many other pollution-creating factors.

    The best solution would be to have an electronics-only landfill where the stuff can sit until someone comes up with a cost-effective way to ‘mine’ them for metals and materials.

  27. tooluser says:

    California now charges an e-Waste fee on all electronics purchases. I paid $25 for the privilege of being able to throw the item away when I am done, and therefore should not be charged anything else.

  28. Outrun1986 says:

    Well I have a friend who can fix stuff, and he is really good. He has fixed everything I sent to him. Now I don’t think there are too many people out there like him, and since I am a friend, I get stuff done for free. But for him to work for free to repair stuff for everyone would be stupid. However for those saying a CRT monitor or LCD panel cannot be repaired, he repairs exactly those things (he repairs monitors for arcade games however there are lots of other things he can fix). Most items cost very little in parts to fix, its the labor that is expensive because you are paying for the work to be done.

    If your gameboy cartridge (or other game cartridge) needs a new battery that usually only costs about a dollar for the battery and holder, or maybe less. Most monitors can be fixed with capacitors and fuses if there isn’t physical damage to the screen, which are very cheap but installing them and having the correct ones on hand is another thing. Its obviously not worth it to fix CRT’s for general consumer use as flat screens are cheaper, lighter and more practical. You also have to have the equipment and tools to fix this stuff and in some cases that stuff is very expensive which in part is why the upfront fees are so high, the repairer has to pay for equipment to fix the stuff you bring to them and that is factored into the cost of the repair.

    For those who want their phones “repaired” do you really want to carry a phone the size of a brick, because today’s phones are simply too small to be repaired by the majority.

    Its worth nothing you CAN purchase repair parts from china and a lot of common phone parts like iPhone screens and Nintendo DS game console parts for handheld gaming systems from ebay if you are handy at fixing things yourself (or have a friend who will do it for a small fee, a case of beer etc.).

    • magnetic says:

      It’s not practical for people to get your friend to fix their stuff for free, sure, but it’d be pretty useful to have home-ec-type classes in schools that teach methods for this kind of thing.

  29. ap0 says:

    Where it’s reasonable to do this modular design she’s suggesting, it’s usually already done. PCs can be upgraded with standardized interchangeable parts, notebooks to a lesser extent. TVs/audio equipment/portable electronics, on the other hand, are special-purpose devices that have no way of easily upgrading. How would you upgrade an LCD TV? Swap out its 1080p panel for a 4K one? Great, now that the panel is swapped, how about all the circuitry that goes along with it? Oh, that’s right, they are integrated systems that aren’t upgradeable and never can be.

  30. Torchwood says:

    Uhhh… last I checked, desktop computers were modular, and had computer components that could be easily replaced. I build my own desktop computers, and they tend to last 4-5 years (although that last year or so is pushing it). Until work disallowed it, I used to get a old work box or two and convert it over to a Linux box for development work. You can usually extend the life of a computer by replacing the memory and upgrading the hard drive…. both semi-trivial items even on a laptop.

    I don’t know what Annie’s problem is with her electronic stuff. Is she buying the absolute cheapest that is out there, and then is surprised when it explodes after 1-2 years? My equipment tends to last at least five years (if not more) because I check the reviews and buy what I consider a good buy, not because it is the absolute cheapest from Redacted Consumer Goods. My stuff usually lasts about five or more years, and it is often due to technical obsolescence than anything else. Heck, my BluRay player was purchased specifically so that it could connect to the Internet and download firmware upgrades…. something that my old DVD player was unable to do.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Yeah my stuff usually lasts 5 years or more the majority of the time. My DVD player from 2004 just recently died however, I got a good run out of it and the VCR still works, which is probably the only part I care about now anyways. I have a PS2 and a computer, and a laptop so I don’t see the need to buy another DVD player since I hardly play DVDs anyways. I had a computer die, but that computer was 6 years old, and was past its useful life, again, it had a good run especially with very heavy use. I usually spend about 1K for a computer, but then I am happy for 6 years until they die. So I am not throwing stuff out every 2 years either. I don’t buy the cheapest stuff on the market, most of my electronics come from online stores since I can never find anything I like at retail, and electronics retail is crap where I live. It really doesn’t cost much more to get something a little better most of the time.

  31. Memtex784 says:

    Ever noticed things made back in the 50’s to early 70’s actually lasted a very long time. Appliances and other various electrical gadgets were well made. Now life spans between 5 – 7 years. Cost more to repair. Everything has an electronic processor now. Break one trace or wire and you have junk.

    Analog based equipment (non processor)are more durable and can handle a dirtier environment. I still remember my parents old GE refrigerator and clothes dryer that lasted 30 some years.

  32. Snowblind says:

    She lost me when she misquoted Moore.

    He said the number of transistors doubles every 18 months.

    • ldub says:

      That’s a great defense mechanism you got goin’, there.

      • Snowblind says:

        Yes, it is.

        When I hear people be sloppy about verifiable facts, I wonder where else they are sloppy.

        Especially when they go on to make statements that are opinions, extrapolations or conclusions that are based on that fact.

        I would love to see non-disposable anything. That is why I buy stuff that is intended to last when I can.

        That is why I design IT solutions for the long haul, so that we don’t have to replace things every 6 months. My personal best is a system designed 8 years ago, ran on the same hardware, except the storage needed expanding, as the day it went into production. Oh, and I trimmed it from 13 systems to 7, so a huge win at the start.

        I know what she is talking about, and I do it every day, but her presentation makes me cringe with the fear mongering and BS.

        • Snowblind says:


          The replacement when it retired used 1/10 the rackspace (less raw materials), 1/20 the power and cooling, and hosts other functions, reducing even more waste and load.

          For those familiar, the load went from 7 V880’s to 2 M3000 and 2 T5220, with room to grow and expand for the next 5 to 7 years based on previous growth. (It also relies on another solution of mine, consolidating 50+ systems running Oracle into 8 M5000s. Consolidating load reduces footprint and increases utilization, both big wins for price and floor load.

          The competing bid from another engineer would have required 14 4U 8way Intel based servers from HP, not sure of the model.

          Planning for less waste also makes for lower initial costs and leaner datacenters.

          And I do it with the “disposable junk” being made by the vendors… applied in innovative ways.

  33. TheGary says:

    Design to last means its going to cost more money, and thats what people complain about the most when it comes to electronics. They whine that they are tooo expensive…
    A good, lasting upgradeable DVD player does have replaceable parts, longer, better warranties and much better support. A 50 dollar out of warranty repair assessment is nothing for a 300 dollar player with a high feature package and thats built to last.
    We already have “designed to last”. People just dont want to pay for it. And as long as people are willing to buy the cheap stuff, manufacturers will keep making it.

    This lady’s message has a lot of merit, but it doesnt take into account that the manufacturers will give the buyer exactly what they want. Inexpensive.

  34. konakonachanchan says:

    Maybe in 1000 years they get metal from trash dumps like how we get metals from the ground.

  35. Plasmafox says:

    The simplest way to start solving this problem is for manufacturers to adopt industry-wide standards that don’t require a huge license fee to use. Companies like Apple, which likes to use non-user-serviceable devices and proprietary parts to inflate their profit margin will lose this ill-begotten revenue, but it reduces operating costs for everyone in the industry.

  36. jiarby says:

    oh yeah…

    and make sure prices don’t go up!

  37. veronykah says:

    There are 2 points I haven’t really seen mentioned.

    1. Sometimes the DVD repair isn’t all that hard. Mine refused to play 99% of DVDs and the display on the front wouldn’t display anything beyond 00:00 when I did manage to get any of them to play.
    I didn’t want to get rid of it but figured it was done for. When this happens, I usually take the electronic apart, assuming if its already broken then who cares if I break it some more? I took it apart, cleaned off the lens put it back together and it was like new.
    I wager most people would have chucked it and bought a new one.

    2. That $39 DVD player? Yeah it sucks. I bought one as a second for my bedroom. It blows. Why bother fixing the nice one? Because the $39 DVD player isn’t worth the $39, but fixing the expensive one I already own IS.

    • ZenMasterKel says:

      Good point, and also, even if you don’t want to open it up and try to fix it, you can always find some tech person that would enjoy monkeying around with it.

    • swanksta says:

      Yeah most stuff is easy to fix and with the internet you can find a how to for just about everything.

  38. KhaiJB says:

    ok I think some of the point is being lost.

    there are times when an item is better repaired than replaced. and in the old days, a TV was designed to be repaired. these days, more and more is being designed so it can’t be repaired and a single failure point can take out an entire unit. with small cheap electronics, ok I can see the point of the arguments.

    but when it’s a fridge, a washing machine….

    there’s a point where repair is better than replacement and replacement is better than repair. but the main issue is, items that are not designed to be repaired, either by design or poor design in the first place, (eg a car where you need to take the air con apart or the front wheel off to get to the battery….), where the item would be worth repairing.

  39. madanthony says:

    With the huge leaps in electronic quality and features, it doesn’t make sense to make electronics even more expensive so they are repairable, so you can fix a nearly obsolete piece of technology.

    We have a Sony plasma TV at work. I think we paid around $7000 for it back in 2003 or so. The picture looks like crap compared to, say, my $600 WalMart Visio special. I’m sure when it dies it will get replaced.

  40. ZenMasterKel says:

    Great and informative video, but I would have enjoyed it more if she was wearing less.

  41. HogwartsProfessor says:

    If it’s a cheap thing, I don’t mind replacing it. But if I spend hundreds of dollars, I’d like whatever it is to be repairable. I just can’t afford to replace something that expensive (like an appliance or a computer) just because one tiny little piece went bad.

  42. bluecoyote says:

    What’s up with the “don’t buy Apple” sentiment? If anything, the lifespan of Apple products is about double that of their industry competitors. Look no further than the resale value of an iPhone compared to any HTC model. Yes, the fruit logo plays a part, but so did the fact that Apple provided software updates for three years.

    No, the battery isn’t user replaceable, but you can walk into any Apple store and have the battery replaced. The old hardware is refurbished and the old battery is recycled.

    Same thing goes with their laptops- their batteries last for about 3x as many charge cycles (I can speak from personal experience after I replaced my HP laptop with a Powerbook that serves me well after 6 years of use). Compared to the HP, which suffered from loose soldering, crappy hinges, clogged heatsinks, and warping plastic, it performed like a disposable piece of crap.

    The electronics to avoid are the cheap crap ones. The junky netbooks and wal-mart specials.

  43. WickedCrispy says:

    Engineered Obsoletion. Shave materials to save tenths of pennies and increase profit margin, design crap to fail so instead of a metal power drill that lasts 75 years, you have a plastic one that lasts 7 months. Oh your battery won’t charge anymore? Sorry, we stopped producing that model, time to buy another $100 drill. Instead of generic A/V or USB cables we’ll make a proprietary cable that only works on our game console or phone so instead of $3.99 you have to pay $60 when the dog eats it, sorry. Cars cost more and have more plastic than steel, while there are fewer jobs making any products. We’re being groomed to buy and discard, rather than research and invest; from phones, TVs, to cars and houses. No one has any money to buy everything that’s farmed out to other countries.

  44. WickedCrispy says:

    Not to mention when something failed, you could replace a part for a few dollars. These days it’s chips or circuit board modules, or usually the entire device itself. Instead of a wiring harness it’s a whole computer controller costing hundreds. Everything has been welded shut and melded together, so if one thing fails, it drags the whole product down with it.

  45. Kylesaisgone says:

    God this shit is so stupid.

  46. u1itn0w2day says:

    Planned obsolesence is profitable for the big corporations. But there should be money in parts and repair as well without gouging the consumer. But even if the companies shifted from selling all brand new to selling new and parts I don’t think the average U.S. consumer would tolerate it even if they could get cheaper repairs when they know they could buy a new one that’s cheap to them.

    It’s ashame the electronics industry didn’t have the availability of parts like the auto industry has. Radio Shack tried in the past but the consumer doesn’t have the interest. Part of the reason the consumer doesn’t have the interest is the lack of vocational education which makes sometimes simple tasks seem like a monumental physical ordeal. The home improvement industry had some success for do it yourselfers but that’s because people look at a home as a longer term investment.

    The only thing I can think of is try rehabing the electronics and sending them to poorer countries. But then the same problems would happen in those countries; those consumers would eventually start the cycle of buying,using and throwing away.

    • magnetic says:

      I always think of schools as being a great place to put these things to use. I was totally amazed when my University replaced all of its CRT monitors with LCDs, in computer labs that were designed to be big enough for the CRTs. They just tossed the CRTs, instead of spreading them around where they could be useful.

      However, I’ll admit I reluctantly replaced my huge old-fashioned TV with an LCD, and have come around to liking it now that I hooked my desktop up to it.

  47. psykomyko says:

    sigh… Let them go into landfills. They take up virtually no space at all and provide a free source of energy (natural gas). Landfills in 2010 are infinitely safer than the landfills and garbage dumps from a few decades ago.

  48. Torchwood says:

    Annie: What should I do with my GPS? I have a handheld Magellan GPS that is 5 years old that is working fine, however, there are no longer any map updates. When map updates were available, they cost me $100 per upgrade

    My replacement Garmin GPS, purchased in March, is designed for the vehicle, talks to me, and has the map for the entire United States, compared to just a section of Northern California. The map upgrades cost me $67, and are for lifetime upgrades, not a single upgrade.

    Oh, and Annie, the handheld GPS is perfectly operational, although I’m not using it for driving anymore. However, nobody says I can’t use it for GeoCaching.

  49. magnetic says:

    More fun is the Futurama episode Attack of the Killer App from this new, preachy season. It gets the whole story in.

  50. Promethean Sky says:

    Without getting into fundamentally changing how business is done, there are a few things that drive me bonkers.
    Why should similar sized phones by the same manufacturer take completely different batteries?
    Why all the propriatary chargers for electronics? Mini/micro USB is prevelant enough to easily be accepted as a standard. Some Apple products have a doodad so they only work with Apple USB chargers. That’s crap, but fortunately there’s a hack for that.
    Power cords, arrrgh. I’ve never owned a laptop where the power cord didn’t develop an internal crack at some point. And of course, that’s the side of the brick that doesn’t disconnect, so you have to buy a whole new power brick. Screw that, $2 in parts at Radio Shack, a few minutes with a soldering iron, and I’m good to go. Less easy when the cord doesn’t take a standard pig tail. Last time I had to fab my own connector, which was a pain in the ass. Though I took the opportunity to double the length of my cord, since I’d always found it restricting.

    I also think a lot of problems would go away if we had better recycling technologies.

  51. tjustman says:

    Buy new vs. repair comes down to economics and economic choices. Depending on the situation you choose either or. This is an individual choice. Do we really want government trying to fix this? You may as well make a movie about individual greed, because it’s that individual of a choice. You can no sooner “correct” the buy new vs. repair choice as you could any other individual choice.
    Of course if the Fed continues to print dollars, soon we’ll be like Cuba, where we can’t afford to buy new anymore. But Greenies would love that. I would hope a website called “The Consumerist” would loathe a world where Americans can no longer consume. Not to mention the environmental cost of repair. Given the quality of tradespeople we have today, repair isn’t much of an option.
    I pondered this all today as I cleaned out my old dishwasher’s impossible-to-change filter, and as my wife ordered our new (and environmentally better) Bosch, which has an easy-to-change filter. Repair the 13-year-old GE washer, complete with its noise, exposed metal heating coil, broken rusty tines, and nasty filter? No. Effing. Way.

  52. SilverBlade2k says:

    The printer companies are the worst offenders of this. They sell the actual printers for dirt cheap, but the ink used in the printers cost as much – or more than, the printer itself. It’s at the point where if you run out of ink – buy a new printer!. The old one is trashed….all due to the fact that the INK is so expensive and that it is often cheaper, or on par, to getting a new printer WITH ink rather then JUST ink.

    I don’t think this will change until the law forces it. I don’t want to see the government take control of more things, but sometimes – it’s necessary.

    • carefree dude says:

      my company does this. We use dell laserjet printers. A new toner cartridge costs 99 dollars per color. We can buy a printer with all four cartridges for 200. So, we have a bunch of these printers to just take the toner out of.

      • Promethean Sky says:

        I know that in a lot of cases new printers only come with partially full cartridges. Perhaps your company should look into whether they’re really getting the bargain they think they are.

  53. DragonThermo says:

    I agree! I don’t want a DVD player for $39. I want a DVD player for $390!

    An abacus is only a “green computer” if it is made from pine or some other quick-growing tree and contains no metal or other non-renewable resource. If it contains metal rods, then it is not a “green computer”. Granted, you’d need to use non-renewable resources (metal) to produce the tools to turn a tree into an abacus, but as long as you use your whetstone to sharpen your blades, you can chop down a tree and then whittle it (literally) down to size.

    Of course, I’m sure NONE of the people involved in this project have any devices produced in the last few years. I’m sure ALL of them are still using their IBM XTs and Macintosh 128k computers. After all, to upgrade to something newer would be a violation of their principles.

  54. DragonThermo says:

    Even if DVD players are made with modular parts, the repair man is still going to charge $50 to even look at it because they have fixed costs to pay for, in addition to time and material. But since, thanks to Annie, DVD players cost $390, the repair man may be able to charge more than $50 since the cost to repair will be less than the cost to replace.

  55. zibby says:

    I solve the “dump” problem by throwing my electronics and other debris in the river when ithe stuff breaks.

  56. carefree dude says:

    at my old college, we just shoved all our E-waste into a “computer graveyard” in the attic and forgot about it. i brought some stuff up there, and found a box of those 5″ floppies.

  57. bsbs says:

    catskyfire is wright. In communist countries every product was made to lust us much it can and there is service for every product that was made but that was not profitable so us we know the communism collapsed. I am from post communist county and a have television set that is in color and 25 years and it still have excellent picture. I both new samsung (3 years old) and he has defects in the first year but we manage to repair. Electronics products must be made in mater that the repairing them is cheaper then buying new one. they must lust longer and to be upgradable an of course toxic free an recyclable.

  58. theora55 says:

    As long as throwing things ‘away’ is cheap/free, the taxpayers are subsidizing the crap-makers, and the people who buy lots of crap. I’d love to see it become pay-as-you-go, and charge for disposal of electronic and consumer goods goods up front. But it is a form of taxation, and unlikely to happen.

  59. Ebon says:

    I very much like this and will look more into it, but there is 1 flaw that I see in her plan.

    Reason we use these toxic materials is because they are some of the best materials we have found for either conducing electricity or insulating heat. In general the more powerful computers out there have also been filled to the brim with this stuff because that is how they got their to be so strong. Whenever you see a computer that says it is “easier to recycle” and compare it to others on the market, it usually pales in most all of the benchmarks and we are unsure if they last as long or longer.