Written by Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff
A few years ago I bought a cheap portable radio for $4.99 to listen to the news while I walk to work. Soon after, one of the earphone buds broke. No problem, I thought – I’ll just fix it using parts from my drawer of other broken electronics. No such luck: the whole radio, including the earphones, was in one piece, connected without screws or snaps, so that if any one part broke it couldn’t be repaired. For less than 5 dollars, Radio Shack knew, I’d find it easier to buy a new one.
I call making a radio – or any other product – that can’t be repaired ‘design for the dump.’ Designers call it planned obsolescence and it’s at the heart of the take-make-waste system that’s trashing the planet, our communities and our health.
You see, while we’re all pretty familiar with the three ‘R’s’ – reduce, reuse, recycle – many of us, including many product designers and manufacturers, give short shrift to the fourth ‘R’: repair. Before recycling comes repair.
(Illustration via Patagonia.com)