Wasting Away In Consumerville

The waste generated by consumer electronics, or e-waste (primarily computers and peripherals, audio and video equipment, telephone and wireless devices, most office machines, and video game consoles), is a serious problem as you may know or will learn from the images and statistics in the Guardian article below. However, the waste is one problem and the cause of the waste is yet another. More specifically, we have allowed ourselves to become a major part of a destructive “throw-away” economy.

The E-waste problem is created by the consumer electronics product cycle. It is the “cycle” part that both creates and amplifies the problem.

Innovation is “dripped” into the hands of consumers to maximize sales and revenues. Similarly, obsolescence is also dripped into the other end of the chain which forces the more conscientious (or frugal) die-hards into the next generation product whether they like it or not.

Manufacturers of consumer electronics have a business growth strategy that requires a continuous cycle of innovation and is strategically timed with driving company value. Innovation is “dripped” into the hands of consumers to maximize sales and revenues. Similarly, obsolescence is dripped into the other end of the chain which forces the more conscientious (or frugal) die-hards into the next generation product whether they like it or not. Companies have intimate knowledge of our buying behaviors and the cycle is fit around those patterns. Worst yet, advertisers (who are paid by the manufacturers) know how to shrink the cycle even further through “must have” incentives and deals, as well as guilt marketing.

Take mobile phones . New versions with new features. New sizes and new colors. Better cameras with higher resolutions. All these new devices will also need new peripherals like chargers, docking stations, etc. More waste without haste. And in the end, the capability of connecting with others and data really doesn’t changed much. One could argue that in some cases the quality of the product, service, and experience has suffered.

We should put pressure on the largest of manufacturers to lengthen the product cycle by (i) building higher quality products made with more durable materials, (ii) improving a product’s upgradeability to adapt to innovations like antennas and storage, (iii) standardize peripherals, like chargers, to be used across multiple products from different manufacturers, and (iv) discourage discounting, trade-up, and other incentive programs which unduly and prematurely tempt buyers.

The e-waste mountains – in pictures – The Guardian

4928Sustainable development goal target 12.5 is to reduce waste. But with a planet increasingly dependent on technology, is that even possible? The e-waste mountains – in pictures – The Guardian

thumbnail courtesy of theguardian.com

A great and informative video from The Story of Stuff Project and Free Range Studios.

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