Last week, my laptop crashed. Fixing it would have cost about as much as buying a new laptop — so buy a new laptop I did, after spending $99 just to have BestBuy’s geek squad tell me the old laptop would cost a lot to fix!
Still, I’m proud to say that I used that old laptop for 4.5 years — far longer than the 18 months or so the average electronic product gets used. Fittingly, the speed with which new electronics become broken electronics is the latest topic taken up by Annie Leonard and the rest of the team behind "The Story of Stuff."
The latest short eco-educational cartoon video is "The Story of Electronics" — which follows the short life of electronics that are “designed for the dump” — a.k.a. designed for planned obsolescence. From causing miscarriages and cancer in employees who make the electronics to wreaking environmental havoc in less-developed countries where old electronics get dumped, "The Story of Electronics" is not a happy tale.
That said, there is some good news. More electronics manufacturers are instituting take-back programs — although many of these programs are still pretty sucky, as the Electronic Takeback Coalition’s latest report card points out. The end-of-life recycling issue is actually the reason I again got a Dell laptop this time around. Dell has what pretty much everyone agrees is the best end-of-life program for its computers. Once I finish attempting to salvage whatever information is still intact on my old laptop’s hard drive, I can simply ask Dell — via an online form — to pick up my old computer from my home for responsible recycling — free of charge. This type of convenient service is one that every manufacturer should offer — but does not.
Of course, some onus falls on the electronics users and their lust for the latest gadgets. My laptop — and my old cell phone too — got weird looks from people because I’d used them for so long. Most people, however, upgrade as soon as they possibly can — often every year or so. That’s why more concerned environmentalists are creating everything from DIY fix-it manuals to retro electronics shops to fight planned obsolescence — one small gadget at a time.