Your Gadgets: Designed to Die

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Do you feel the need to replace your electronic devices every couple of years? There’s a reason for that.

According to The Story of Stuff, a popular online documentary series produced by Annie Leonard, modern electronics manufacturers are guilty of designing their products for the dump.

“Designed for the dump means making stuff to be thrown away quickly,” Leonard explains in the newest film in the series, The Story of Electronics. “Today’s electronics are hard to upgrade, easy to break and impractical to repair.”

She points out facts that most consumers are probably well aware of. When you buy a new phone or computer, the old chargers and accessories rarely work with it, forcing you to buy more of those as well. Similarly, when many gadgets break, it ends up costing less to replace than repair them, as we reported a few months ago regarding cordless phones.

For manufacturers, building products with a shorter lifespan is a way to get consumers to keep buying more stuff, which of course, is more profitable. But for consumers, this ends up being more expensive, and perhaps more importantly, says Leonard, it creates excess electronic waste.

“The 18 months we use these things are just a blip in their entire lifecycle,” said Leonard, who spent several years studying what happens to consumer products once they're thrown away.

After we’re done with these electronics, they end up in landfills or are shipped to countries like China, where workers pick apart the few useful parts and then discard the rest. The problem though is that these products often contain toxins, which are dangerous to those who live and work in proximity to them.

Leonard notes in the video that today’s electronics manufacturers are not evil by any means, but instead are simply trying to bring down their production costs. They also may not realize the long-term implications of building products that are not meant to last.

Watch the full video above to learn more and hear Leonard’s ideas for reducing electronic waste.

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