back to article UN: E-waste is growing 5x faster than it can be recycled

We're creating electronic waste almost five times faster than we're recycling it using documented methods, according to a United Nations report released on Wednesday. And the economic impact is significant. While e-waste recycling has benefits estimated to include $23 billion of monetized value from avoided greenhouse gas …

  1. ThatOne Silver badge

    We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

    > The right to repair should be the obligation to repair, if we want to avoid drowning in trashed electronics

    B-But, turnover?...

    In other words: I'd gladly let some losers drown in trashed electronics, if it means that I (me!) am making a big juicy profit! I'm the only thing that matters to me.

    1. pdh

      Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

      Happily aided and abetted by "Everyone else should hold onto their old gadgets for 5 or 10 years, but I (me!) need the latest and shiniest, because I DESERVE IT and I'm the only thing that matters to me.

      1. 43300 Silver badge

        Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

        I've noticed that IT people often tend to fall into one of two categories when it comes to home equipment. There are those (especially gamers) who will always have new or fairly new kit and will wax lyrical about the latest shiny graphics card they've bought. Then there are those who often don't have high requirements away from work and never replace things until they have to (I'm typing this on a laptop which is about 9 years old...).

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

          > I'm typing this on a laptop which is about 9 years old

          I am typing this on a 2 year old laptop that was purchased to replace an 11 year old W7 laptop. I had hoped, this rather over spec laptop would last as long, but given the rush to “AI”, I expect it will need to be migrated to Linux if that is to be achieved.

          So currently I love the power and ability to run VMs etc. but not looking forward to having to replace it etc in a year or so.

          1. pdh

            Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

            15 year old ThinkPad W500 here, with the hard disk swapped out for an SSD. It's my every-day machine and it does everything that I need it to do. It even survived an accidental coffee spill a couple of years ago. (Almost an entire cup, poured directly on the keyboard. I gave it two weeks to dry out, then it booted as though nothing had happened.)

            I'm certain there are others here with even older machines.

        2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          In Related News ...

          ... Linux has dropped support for the 32-bit x86 architecture, new netbooks are no longer sold, and 95% of all new laptops do not have user-replacable batteries, RAM, or wireless cards.

          No (more) software security updates for a device means that device is tossed out, or maybe recycled.

          No (more) app updates for dedicated devices (media video players, iPod-like devices, etc.) means that device probably will be tossed out, or maybe recycled.

        3. Jakester

          Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

          One computer I use regularly has the motherboard from an eMachine ET1331 (about 12 years old?). I use the system for general computing but also as a disk backup/copy station. I picked up a working ET1331 at a thrift store for a few dollars, but put in a case that has two SATA drive slots on top, plenty of drive bays. I like this motherboard because it has an IDE controller, SATA controller, floppy interface. I added an additional SATA card so that I can boot to multiple SATA drives, do drive cloning/backing, drive diagnostics, copy files from floppies (both 3-1/2 and 5-1/4). I normally use Linux on the system, but it actually runs Win 10 fairly well.

          Yes, I am one of those who doesn't need the fastest, prettiest equipment to do what I want and need to do. Most of what I do is in Linux, but I do use Windows for a few tasks, so at some point I am going to have to bite the bullet on a Win 11 system for home.

          1. Col_Panek

            Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

            I had an eMachine but it had an evil NVidia video that was always hassling my Linux Mint. Glad to find another (free) machine.

    2. NeilPost

      Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

      USA - Just get the compulsory basic recycling sorted first FFS.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

      "the money is talking too loud"

      The main problem, spelled right out in the article, isn't that companies are producing too many trashy electronics that quickly get junked to pad their bottom line, it's that the cost of recycling is higher than the value extracted from it *. If more value can be extracted from the recycling process than it costs to recycle, then recycling just becomes another link in a value chain, and then it doesn't matter how much trashy electronics are being produced an thrown away. This can be helped by designing electronics to be more easily recycled (something that has to be legislated for). Also to note that there is a natural lag here, if electronics start to be designed for easier recycling now, it will be a couple of years before they are produced (and more before the process is optimised), plus the lifetime of the devices. So anywhere between 3-6 years before we see the benefit of more easy electronics recycling, and in the meanwhile we have to find ways to make recycling the current e-crap economically viable (or at least bury them seperately not mixed in with all the other trash until we can find a more viable recycling process for them)

      *strictly speaking difficult to actually work out without a breakdown of what "monetized value from avoided greenhouse gas emissions" and "externalized costs to people and the environment." really mean

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

        > The main problem [...] isn't that companies are producing too many trashy electronics [...], it's that the cost of recycling is higher than the value extracted from it

        Maybe because companies make it so difficult (i.e. expensive) to disassemble their kit?...

        I remember the times when, having a set of screwdrivers, you could properly disassemble and re-assemble about any tech object, from a radio to a washing machine (I know because I did it). Nowadays it's neigh impossible, because it's cheaper to glue/rivet everything together.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

      the fact is (though it doesn't make the 'manufacturers' less guilty) is that we're all guilty. The governments who preach 'green', but at the same time depend on tax revenue and next election votes, and us, the plebs, who'd love the 'green', but not through my own, very personal, MUCH thinner wallet. So we all demand that 'something must be done', but nobody will admit loud & clear, what's being done is farcical.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We don't hear you, the money is talking too loud

        Speak for yourself. My family has only one machine that was purchased "new" - a MacBook for SWMBO, as she's been in the Apple ecosystem for a couple decades. I've never bought a laptop for me, as people give me their old ones when they're "too slow". (I try to convince them that Ubuntu + LibreOffice makes it substantially faster, but folks don't listen well.) Desktop is the same one I ran XP on, albeit with more memory (a whopping 8 GB) and "new" (8+ years old) spinning-rust drive. I've had my phone for 3+ years with no intention of replacing it in the next couple, SWMBO's is similar, we have old, used iPads...

        In other words, we use stuff for a long time and often buy used in the first place, which dramatically decreases the environmental impact of the devices. "Right to Repair" would help more people do this.

  2. Filippo Silver badge

    >We need to build products to last, and make sure we can fix them when they break.

    That is unfeasible within the current paradigm. The entire economic model is geared around low-lifespan products. If everyone suddenly started buying a new phone every 10 years minimum, and there are exactly zero technical reasons why that shouldn't be the case, entire supply chains would implode.

    I'm not saying this is bad, quite the contrary, but it's going to be a whole lot harder than just setting up a "Right to Repair". Still, it's a start.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Every year you have a cohort of people entering adulthood. It's not like everyone buys phone today and then nothing for 10 years.

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

        There would still be substantially fewer orders each year if phones could be guaranteed to last 5-10 years, and the whole setup of some companies is based on a short renewal cycle.

        Nevertheless, to take climate change and recycling seriously, that impact on companies and supply changes is exactly what should be happening.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          This is all driven by unsustainable lifestyle of the rich.

          New younger partner(s) every year or so that have to be impressed.

          New apartments

          New cars

          New yachts

          New outfit every day

          Private jets

          Their are bored to their tits and need all the money to feed their vanity which then drives short product cycles and so on.

          I personally would probably opt for having people showing such behaviour sectioned.

          1. pdh

            It's so easy to blame "the rich" (or "the corporations") isn't it? Much easier than thinking about whether you yourself are contributing to the problem.

            1. 43300 Silver badge

              There is truth in both points, surely? Many of the rich do tend to engage in conspicuous consumption and are therefore very wasteful, but equally even many 'ordinary' people replace things more than they need to (especially smartphones).

              1. SundogUK Silver badge

                The 'rich' are such a small percentage of the global population they could produce vastly more waste then anyone else and it would still be a drop in the ocean compared to Joe average dumping their TV/Smartphone/whatever every couple of years.

                1. Lurko

                  "The 'rich' are such a small percentage of the global population they could produce vastly more waste then anyone else and it would still be a drop in the ocean compared to Joe average dumping their TV/Smartphone/whatever every couple of years."

                  Maybe the rich don't throw away that many more smartphones than the rest of us, but their overall lifestyle and product consumption creates more waste and more emissions per head, and their physical waste includes private jets, helicopters, powerboats, super yachts and the like. So still not the bulk of global emissions, but easily big enough to put a sizeable dent in the global picture.


                  And worth noting that the barrier to being in the global 1% is $310k in 2019 prices, so there's a few members of the commentariat who qualify, and the rest of us will be easily in the top 9%.

            2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

              I only buy something "new" if the old thing completely falls apart or is no longer suitable for use and where I can I only buy used products.

              Never been drawn into a trend of having a new flagship phone every year or having the latest laptop or state of the art TV.

              It's "the rich" are who are driving "the corporations" for profit above anything else to feed their ill desires.

              Sure we get some nice shiny things to buy, but if they fall apart during their designed life span and we are forced to buy something new (manufactured necessity is another thing...) that starts to sound more like trading gold (our money and assets) for beads.

            3. Roland6 Silver badge

              >It's so easy to blame "the rich" (or "the corporations") isn't it?

              Trouble is Joe Public like to emulate the rich and get upset when government attempts to take action that limits this ability…

          2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

            No, it isn't. It's the average person on the street. Mostly they're quite happy with short mobile phone contracts, and they enjoy New Shiny.

            Whilst 'the rich' disproportionately contribute to emissions on planes, there aren't enough of them to affect the market of phones unless you're classing 'rich' as 'the global rich' aka very average people living in non third world countries.

            That's the real problem with climate change. To effectively counter it requires substantial change to an average first world lifestyle, and few people are prepared to compromise.

            There's a lot that can be pinned on large wealthy companies, and their excessive influence on politics, but not all of it can be blamed on them.

            Much easier to blame someone else though, because then you conveniently don't have to do something, or feel guilt for being part of the problem.

            1. jmch Silver badge

              "That's the real problem with climate change. To effectively counter it requires substantial change to an average first world lifestyle, and few people are prepared to compromise."

              This, actually, isn't really true, it's the line being fed by the type of regressive environmentalist whose solutions to environmental problems amount to basically (1) have humans living a pre-industrialisation lifestyle and/or (2) have significantly less human population *. We can not only keep the first-world lifestyle in the first world, we can expand a first-world lifestyle to the rest of the world up to and including the global population peak expected to be around 10 billion**. What is needed is (1) a vast expansion of nuclear power (which, per GW, is the safest, cleanest, and least environmentally intrusive of any power source we have**) and (2) while we wait for the plants to be built, pump a bit of SO2 into the troposphere. We know that this will slow down warming without any unknown side effects because this is what we have seen from past volcanic eruptions.

              The only thing in the way is those same regressive environmentalists who see technology as a problem not as a possible solution.

              *Of course they will tell you that's not the case, but if you try to pin them down with detailed and realistic proposed solutions they don't have any

              **In case anyone thinks this is too many, consider that at an average 65kg per human, at the approximate density of water, 10 bn would occupy a volume of 650 million cubic metres, which at an average height of 1.5m would all fit (not very comfortably) into a square of about 21km each side, so approx 440 sqkm (for comparison, area of greater London is about 1570 sq km)

              ***and the only reason it isn't also the cheapest is regulation that force nuclear power to emit less radiation than natural background radiation

          3. Filippo Silver badge

            >This is all driven by unsustainable lifestyle of the rich.

            You have a weird way to argue that. All of the things you list have an extremely long lifecycle. I mean, most of our town centres are full of apartments built in the 1700s.

            There are ... problems with yachts and private jets, but going into landfills is not the big one for them. Things that can change owner and still work fine are not the problem. Sure, the rich will get tired of it and get rid of it, but one of their minions will sell it to someone who then uses it.

            The problem are things that can't be sold on. Lots of consumer electronics just stop working, usually for reasons that could be entirely avoidable. Both the rich and the poor throw them away all the time, the only difference is that the rich throw away more expensive models - and somewhat faster, to be sure, but the rich are not that numerous.

            Ideally, it would work just like cars. Depending on your income and desires, you can get a new one or you can get one that has been used for 5+ years and still has 5+ years in it. That just doesn't happen for phones.

            1. 43300 Silver badge

              "Ideally, it would work just like cars. Depending on your income and desires, you can get a new one or you can get one that has been used for 5+ years and still has 5+ years in it. That just doesn't happen for phones."

              With the cost and expected lifespan of EV batteries, it's looking questionable for cars too!

              1. Filippo Silver badge

                But that's a technical problem. It can be fixed with better batteries. The consumer electronics problem is not a technical problem. If tomorrow someone invented batteries that don't degrade ever, the EV problem would vanish overnight, but we'd still have to buy new phones frequently.

                1. Roland6 Silver badge

                  > If tomorrow someone invented batteries that don't degrade ever

                  Well the diamond battery comes close, just that as yet it’s power output isn’t that good…

                2. 43300 Silver badge

                  Yes, but nobody has managed that yet (nor is there any indication that they will in the near future), and meanwhile the older examples of the first generation of EV cars are already becoming difficult to sell if the battery has degraded (which it's likely to have done).

                  The general idea with new techologieis is that they are developed sufficiently to be properly workable before being rolled out at scale, rahter than rolling them out in vast numbers and hoping that somebody can solve the obvious shortcomings before those start to bite.

                3. Col_Panek

                  We just had two Motorola phones die because of bad (swelling) batteries. They were only 5 years old but did everything we needed to do. I'm exploring plugged-in jobs for them.

              2. jmch Silver badge

                "...That just doesn't happen for phones."

                Historically it hasn't happened for phones because in the early stages of development, there is always a killer feature.... bigger / sharper / brighter screen, better camera, more memory/storage, longer-lasting battery etc etc. Now development has plateaued even at the flagship end, there just isn't much scope for improvement. The first 10 years after the first iPhone, each year was a significant jump from the previous. Now, any decent model from the past couple of years is good enough spec to be still good enough for 5+ years. The main drivers for change are (1) habit / wanting latest bling and (2) OS / software support. Mandating OS support for 5-year minimum needs to be done.

                With respect to cars, newer-generation batteries are keeping over 90% of original capacity after thousands of recharges (equivalent to approx 20 years operation). There already are 10+ year old electric cars on the roads. It will soon not be an issue at all.

        2. bigtimehustler

          Kind of misses the point that even if devices lasted forever, there are many people who can aford to buy the latest tech anyway, because of whatever incremental improvement it gives them. They will buy new often, regardless of how easy repair is.

          1. ChoHag Silver badge

            Last time I checked you could buy a very good car just a few years old for as little as £500.

            Why? Because when those who measure their penis or boobs with their car buy a new one, they --- get this --- recycle the old one.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              trouble is, on top of that 500 quid, you'll pay several times that per year for insurance, fuel, repairs. It's not only become expensive to purchase goods, but to maintain them. And as they become more complicated (modern cars), these extra costs will only soar.

              1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

                That's a weak and irrelevant argument that can be said of any car, no matter the price point. It's also just cost of ownership, which most people who have a car accept for the convenience of having their own transport.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  "That's a weak and irrelevant argument that can be said of any car, no matter the price point. It's also just cost of ownership, which most people who have a car accept for the convenience of having their own transport."

                  No it's not. I buy cars new and run then for around 12-16 years, I know full well what expenses they have. In the first (usually) 3 years nothing other than consumables - with a gentle right foot I might still be on the original tyres and brake blocks, nothing other than servicing costs. But as the car gets older, it will have to have new tyres, after perhaps five years there's new brake blocks, air con may well need attention, at six years it's wise to replace a battery (not cheap with coded AGM batteries) to avoid being left in the lurch, after seven years perhaps onto new brake disks, at about eight years I find a preponderance of "erratics" such as fuel pumps, brake calipers*, perhaps a radiator, track rod ends, at nine to eleven years new tyres again and there's a possibility of the bearings going, the odd drive shaft boot or clutch and brake cables, injectors start to play up. At any time after seven years you're at the mercy of one offs like the ventilator blower, or the heater matrix leaking (especially on French cars), failed window winders, central locking faults, etc

                  Basically, every part of a car has a finite life, even if a few will usually outlast the economic life of the car. Buy a new one and your repair and infrequent consumable costs are nil or pretty low, buy a nearly new one and they should be low-ish. Buy an older car and there's a very good chance that twice a year there's something needing a costly repair or replacement. My 2016 car's just had a new battery £160, it's had new rear brake pads £100, coming up for four new tyres £400+.

                  * And if they seize on it'll be one new caliper, but two new disks and pads, as I know to my cost. If they seize off, then you're at risk of altogether more serious consequences.

                  1. Roland6 Silver badge

                    > In the first (usually) 3 years nothing other than consumables - with a gentle right foot I might still be on the original tyres and brake blocks

                    Possible with very low mileage.

                    With 25k miles per annum, it’s effectively a new set of tyres every 12~18 months, new brake pads every 18~24 months and discs every couple of years.

                    > Buy an older car and there's a very good chance that twice a year there's something needing a costly repair or replacement.

                    Personally, I don’t regard replacing the battery as costly, there are other much more expensive parts that need to be replaced. Basically, I aim to run my cars for 250,000 miles. Over this duration, I expect to have a lot more money left in my pocket compared to purchasing/leasing a new car every ~3 years.

              2. jmch Silver badge

                "you'll pay several times that per year for insurance, fuel, repairs."

                Any insurance besides the obligatory 3rd-party is going to be less costly for an older car, as it's partly based on car value. Fuel consumption might be slightly higher for an older equivalent vehicle but probably not by that much. Repairs are the only big item, but (2nd-hand cost + repairs) is still likely quite cheaper than buying new. In any case I find that doing a good yearly maintenance avoids the need for any major repairs.

                Personally I find that the most effective "value per cost" is buying 2nd-hand vehicle with less than 2 years / less than 20k km - it's basically almost new but at around half the price, and then will be good for 10 years. Not always common to find, but you only need to find 1 good deal every 10 years which is very achievable if you're not in a rush and have the patience to wait for the right deal.

            2. 43300 Silver badge

              "Last time I checked you could buy a very good car just a few years old for as little as £500."

              Well, you'll find 'a' car for 500 quid, but it's probably not going to be a 'very good' one. The prices of second-hand petrol cars, especially smaller ones in the lower tax / insurance bracket, has gone up quite a bit over the past few years.

          2. Filippo Silver badge

            That's not the point. If devices lasted forever, then yes, some people would still buy the latest tech anyway, because of whatever incremental improvement.

            But they would sell their previous phone, instead of throwing it into the trash.

            Just like cars. That's the point.

        3. jmch Silver badge

          "the whole setup of some companies is based on a short renewal cycle."

          True, but also irrelevant. We shouldn't defer legislation to enforce recycling just because some companies might go bust, we set up the legal/regulatory environment so that there is more money to be made in recycling old devices than producing crappy ones and the market will sort it out

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: the market will sort it out

            While I agree with your general point, "the market will sort it out" almost never works. That could be because some are still able to game to regulatory environment to artificially distort the market, or it could be that apparent monopolies or quasi-cartels form (not actual cartels, more of a self-emergent property) because only a few massive companies can afford to do business in such a regulatory environment. Without any collusion they can, and do, avoid stepping on each other toes, so you end up with adjacent monopolies at very similar price points. Doesn't really help.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    The right to repair should be the obligation to repair, if we want to avoid drowning in trashed electronics

    The electronics don't always end up in landfill because they are broken and can't be repaired. People, for instance, would toss perfectly fine phones or laptops in the bin simply because they bought new ones and can't be bothered flogging the old ones on eBay.

    Another thing is the electronics in those products are not open. The CPUs on the phones, memory chips and other chips could be repurposed, but there are no datasheets available etc.

    Maybe a 5 year old phone is too slow for being a phone today, but its guts could be perfectly fine for controlling your garage door or automating plant watering in your garden.

    You may say, yes dude, I am going to desolder the phone CPU, design a PCB, write a firmware so that my garage door opener is in my full control and I know it does not send my personal information to Winnie the Pooh. I am going to spend good three years researching and learning and commit fortune to prototypes, while not going out, forgetting about holidays and family.

    Maybe you wouldn't do that, but there is a lot of people who would.

    I think once the device becomes obsolete (no longer sold), the manufacturers should be obliged to release all documentation so the device could be repurposed or supported by third parties.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Perspective

      To be fair it's trivial to control a garage door with an ESP8266 or similar, certainly no need to have the guts of a phone.

      The phone is already a decent form factor, all we really need is unlocked boot loaders, and some binary support for the soc.

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Perspective

        That was a bit of exaggeration, but even an old phone CPU would have magnitudes better performance and memory on tap than ESP8266. This means it would probably be capable of running inference for some simpler models in real time. Hooked up with a camera it could only open the door if it recognises your car or it could play a message "Welcome home <insert name>, may I open the door for you?", or run some high resolution telemetry so you could calculate how long the door could be open for in the winter without affecting your heating bills too much and many more.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Perspective

          That memory/cpu is completely wasted on something like a door openner...

          I know you were exaggerating somewhat, but there are real cases where the phone could be a reasonable thing to reuse (currently using two old iPhones as roving NDI cameras for a streaming setup for instance).

          Calculating how long the door should be open is easy - it should always be open for the shortest possible time.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Perspective

            That memory/cpu is completely wasted on something like a door openner...

            It is certainly being less wasted than doing nothing in the landfill...

            it should always be open for the shortest possible time

            Yes, but you could calculate what it is exactly, for your desired parameters. For instance how long it can be open before temperature drops by one degree.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Perspective

              "It is certainly being less wasted than doing nothing in the landfill..."

              That depends on your perspective. The hardware is in use, but that isn't really any better or worse, and it is using power, which is slightly worse. Whether it evens out depends on what you would have done otherwise. If you would have bought new hardware to do the same job, it's probably better. If you would have opened it with existing tools, probably slightly worse.

            2. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Perspective

              "Yes, but you could calculate what it is exactly, for your desired parameters. For instance how long it can be open before temperature drops by one degree."

              Hardly takes a phone - an ESP8622 is perfectly capable of reading a DS18B20 to determine the outside temperature, which is all you need to make that calculation - not that it's a calculation it's a simple lookup.

              "It is certainly being less wasted than doing nothing in the landfill..."

              So recycle it instead. The article headline is very misleading, as illustrated by the first sentence contradicting it directly.

              We're generating e-waster faster than we *are* recycling it... not faster than we *can* recycle it.

              62 Mt of waste - 14 was recycled through documented operations, 16 through developed waste management, 18 through low quality recycling (probably releasing some of the less nice chemicals) and 14 to landfill.

              We don't actually need to increase recycling capacity by that much to do alot better.

          2. Snake Silver badge

            Re: reasonable thing to reuse

            I tried that years ago. I had a wonderful HTC M7 that lost carrier & software upgrade support so I 'downgraded' it to a home remote for my automation systems.

            Worked OK...until the software devs updated the Android automation apps to no longer be compatible with the M7's Android version, and stopped allowing the old versions on their systems as well.

            Bye bye, M7.

            It was a nice phone. Loved the form factor and construction. But in order to lower recycling, thereby extending use, both hardware *and* software vendors would need to get with the program.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Perspective

      "The right to repair" exists but so much these days is designed to be irreparable because more cash is generated by making everyone buy a new device. Originally if your computer died then you had to just unplug the CPU and plug a new one in or replace the capacitor connected to the AC transformers via a chunky diode. Phones were often fixed by just replacing the microphone and record players worked better when the wooden disk needle was sharpened.

      Originally everything was designed to be fixed.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Perspective

        Originally everything was designed to be fixed.

        More subtle than that, I think... less designed to be fixed, as not designed not to be fixed. Processors and memories - expensive parts - were fitted in sockets, so the *could* be replaced (including at final build stage, if necessary) and coincidentally upgraded.

        Now you end up with thousand-plus 'pin' components, with no practical way of using with a socket; you get components soldered to boards in the search for ultimate thinness; you get final sizes for e.g. memory decided at manufacture... I'm sure it's only coincidence that all of these have no practical method of repair, so you have to buy a new one if it breaks. Even the most advanced hobbiest will quail before large BGA packages.

        1. Electronics'R'Us

          Surface mount parts

          There are a lot of very good reasons we use surface mount parts (including BGAs with thousands of pins).

          Among those reasons are signal integrity which is far simpler when you don't have a big hole in the board, let alone a component in a socket (which is, electrically, a bit of a nightmare in this context).

          That said, a group of repair hobbyists (or perhaps a repair outfit) could get the necessary equipment to repair such things quite affordably.

          One thing that needs to be done is to educate those people on the risks of ESD (electrostatic discharge) to modern electronics; a very small amount of it can damage a modern microprocessor or microcontroller (so small that we would not even notice that we actually had an ESD event).

          A major problem is parts availability; this is where otherwise perfectly good electronics that has one defective part has to be scrapped because the replacement part is not sold through regular channels (or is not even produced any more). This is, to a certain extent, driven by the planned obsolescence model.

          Most failed parts, though, are not the highly integrated bits, but are more usually the various support parts, which can be sourced quite simply in most cases.

          I know of some companies that are indeed repairing expensive controller boards (and the OEMs are aghast!); when a board can cost upwards of £10k (some are much more expensive) then there is a financial incentive to repair a unit rather than buy a new item. There is at least one company that sells (and train people in the use of) diagnostics and reverse engineering equipment to facilitate this.

          The ability to repair needs to have an economic incentive, in my view.

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: Surface mount parts

            I've just had a burnt out chip repaired on an audio mixer - cost me less than £200...

            Having local repair shops you can trust is good enough for the majority of the more delicate repairs.

    3. samzeman

      Re: Perspective

      > "I think once the device becomes obsolete (no longer sold), the manufacturers should be obliged to release all documentation so the device could be repurposed or supported by third parties."

      I think this is a great idea, but I also think it would be one of those bits of legislation that would become incredibly complicated to avoid spilling trade secrets, define what a smartphone actually is (or is it all handhelds? or all chips/tech?) what counts as "no longer sold" (company can just whack the price up to a billion billion pounds or only sell to traders who have every cert under the sun) and what counts as "all documentation" (though giving the benefit of the doubt we all know what documentation means colloquially - it would still be a pain to define under law).

      Not to mention, how this might affect software/firmware. If the audio driver for example is used in other devices, releasing the documentation is possible (probably already done) but releasing the actual code which would be required to modify the device for other use would mean releasing proprietary info if I'm not mistaken.

      Mostly I want this kind of legislation so all the 3DS games become legal to play again instead of "no legal way to obtain and play except buying a 3DS that already has them on"

      1. Roger Greenwood

        Re: Perspective

        "spilling trade secrets"

        Good point, I assume that most manufacturers use existing designs to make the next one, so releasing ALL the details of any product even if obsolete would be a leap too far for many, especially where software is involved. I think they should, but I like tinkering with stuff. Perhaps after some years of going EOL but defining that is going to be a challenge.

      2. JulieM Silver badge

        Re: Perspective

        The simplest way to "avoid spilling trade secrets" would just be to ban trade secrets.

    4. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Re: Perspective

      Your garage door thing sounds wonderful but I'm not convinced that such an approach isn't part of the problem.

    5. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Perspective

      Commodore, of course, made many schematics available from the get go. Included in the manuals included with many of their machines.

      This aided immensely with third party hardware development and repair shops. Possibly counter to their corporate objective to sell more computers.

      Software developers putting hard end dates on products by hardware locks is very common. MS/Intel being the most obvious case. Though neither apple or android are in the clear by any measure.

      ‘Common’ metals aren’t looking so common anymore. Copper, recycled or virgin has more than tripled in price in no time at all. Demand is only increasing. In WW2 the US treasury authorised the release of silver for use in large power transformers as copper had became a protected commodity for wiring aircraft up.

      Graphene will solve everything we’re told. Better get in with it because other material problems are going to break things, eventually.

  4. IGotOut Silver badge


    ....we could just buying shiney we don't actually need.

    Phone. Secondhand, now 6 years old

    TV Cheap HD, no 10 years old.

    HiFi 30 years old (with Bluetooth receiver on the aux)

    iPad mini 4

    Laptop must be 10 years old as is the desktop.

    Monitors about the same.

    I may at some point update the iPad to a bigger newer model, but that'll be second hand as well.

    1. ICL1900-G3

      Re: Or.....

      Could not agree with you more. I haven't bought a new car, pc, laptop, phone, camera, hi-fi... in decades, and I'm very happy with what I have.

    2. YetAnotherXyzzy

      Re: Or.....

      Yes. This.

      There is a lot of bashing of big evil corporations but in the end they give the public what it wants, and what the public wants (no not you, dear reader, and not me, but most people) is New Shiny every couple of years. And if most people replace their stuff that often, then it is pointless to make stuff needlessly repairable. This is true not just in consumer electronics but in consumer tat generally. Fast fashion, anyone?

      We have met the enemy and he is us.

      1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Or.....

        OK. First action then - ban ALL advertising!

      2. jospanner

        Re: Or.....

        This isn’t a solution so much as an excuse.

        Taking on the economic model and its main actors is something you can actually do, where’s deprogramming conspicuous consumption is going to be a lot harder.

    3. andy gibson

      Re: Or.....

      Agree except for the ipad mini bit - mine's all but useless because so many of the apps have been discontinued.

  5. tiggity Silver badge

    Recycling not that easy

    In UK WEEE regs, theoretically make recycling of electrical waste easy.

    In reality, it isn't.

    If your phone (or whatever) does have a take back service, any mention of it is probably (in real terms) hidden amongst reams of paperwork, or lurking on a website in beware of the leopard territory.

    So, your average UK punter sees only recycling option as a trip to the nearest municipal recycling centre.

    .. this can be a PITA e.g. needs a booking, many miles away, potentially inaccessible via public transport (my nearest "tip" only allows vehicles on site, if you are one of the (many) low income people with no vehicle then its problematic visiting on foot as pedestrian access banned - a (carless & I was unable to give him a lift as I was away) mate of mine successfully took some stuff to the tip on his bicycle though, arguing that it is a vehicle)

    .. so lots of e-waste ends up in the bin.

    (Not helped by pointless "single use" crap like disposable electrical vapes)

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: Recycling not that easy

      My local tip has a no walk in policy and its stupid! Very petty minded of them. However the green bin men in my area will now collect batteries and small electrical appliances. You just put them in a bag and put them on or next to the green bin.

      As someone with a slight security paranoia my major issue with recycling phones and tablets is ensuring they are completely blank of all my information. I have a pile of old discs from old PCs but the PCs have been recycled long ago. The only phones or tablets I've taken to the tip have been dismantled, heat gunned and the flash chips broken apart. A service that offers secure destruction of old phones/tablets would be very useful. I'm still iffy about second hand phones as I've seen some horror stories about second hand PCs still having the original owners data.

      I'd also put money on companies mining landfill sites for metals within the next 10 years.

      1. Doctor Trousers

        Re: Recycling not that easy

        There's a huge difference between phones and PCs.

        If a PC hard drive has only been quick formatted, or if Windows has just been factory reset, then it's trivially easy to recover the data that has previously been on it. Literally just run something like PhotoRec on it and you'll get back pretty much anything that's not on a sector of hard drive that's been written over. No special skill or gear needed. That's why you've heard horror stories about data being recovered from second hand PCs.

        It's a far, far more complicated process to recover anything from a phone or tablet that's been reset. It's not something that anyone can just have a go at and see what they can find, you need to have an inkling that there's something there you want to find.

        1. blackcat Silver badge

          Re: Recycling not that easy

          I've recovered discs before after partition table corruption and apart from being really slow it was very easy.

          As most phones and tablets use emmc for mass storage this is pretty much just an SSD with a file system and if you quick format it like old spinning rust the data is still there. What I don't know is exactly what methodology the phone software uses to 'wipe' itself. I have recovered data from a corrupted microSD card so recovering an emmc memory isn't going to be much harder. Also as most of these flash based devices use wear levelling they might leave freshly 'deleted' areas for a while before overwriting.

          1. Doctor Trousers

            Re: Recycling not that easy

            Sure you can recover data from a failing or corrupt hard drive, IF it hasn't been fully formatted/D-Banned/overwritten. The physical health of the hard drive, or the state of the partition table, is a separate issue from how intact the data is. PhotoRec can recover data in a partition agnostic way anyway.

            Recovering from the internal storage of a phone or tablet is nothing like recovering from an SD card. You put a SD card into a PC, it mounts it as an external storage device.

            How are you going to get your PC to do that with the internal flash memory of a phone?

            1. blackcat Silver badge

              Re: Recycling not that easy


              This tool claims to be able to recover a factory reset phone. If the phone still boots then you can access the filesystem and it appears that using debugging mode you can actually get some low level access. I'm only going by what I'm reading though. If you could dd the raw blocks off the internal storage you could potentially recover deleted but not overwritten files.

              There is also a tool called droidkit and fonepaw from my quick search.

              If someone is REALLY determined you desolder the emmc chip and read it with your PC.

              As jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid points out if your phone is encrypted then you just need to secure overwrite the key, which I hope is stored in another chip, and suddenly the data recover gets VERY hard. Old phones likely won't be encrypted.

          2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

            Re: Recycling not that easy

            "What I don't know is exactly what methodology the phone software uses to 'wipe' itself"

            If you mean the"panic button" self wipe, or the sort of thing you initiate remotely if the phone is lost then I don't think it actually does a full erase. The contents have to be encrypted in advance and all the "wipe" does is overwrite the decryption key on the device. So the data is still there but encrypted with a key that is no longer available.

            I don't think that's the same as doing a hardware reset though.

      2. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Recycling not that easy

        On hard drives (spinning rust style) in addition to multiple junk write cycles (if disk still functioning to write to), I drill many holes through HDD casing, and soak in salty water for many days to get some .

        I do similar on phones (obv factory reset first), basic dismantle and some drilling then soak in salty water for days to further damage components.

        .. Then they are ready to go to the tip, as scrap electronics.

        Very little other than industrial shred is 100% secure but "good enough" for me - and as I have no phone or PC banking (no apps on my phone with any card or account details) any data that can be grabbed is fairly worthless - don't even use browser "offers" to save my username / password combos, so nothing of use there.

        This recent tip story shows why security paranoia is a good idea


        1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

          Re: Recycling not that easy

          Some paranoia is a good idea, salt water is a tad over the top if you're just an average user. By the time you've drilled the device you're into professional data recovery, government security services, or a really really motivated individual territory.

          If the data are important enough, it'd probably be far more effective to use a sander on a platter rather than a drill.

          If you're saying that your data are in any case fairly worthless, why are you going to this effort? A standard multi phase wipe is more than good enough, and enables the device to be safely used by someone else.

          1. Persona

            Re: Recycling not that easy

            At the high end of gov security not only did the operator come and sand the oxide off the platters, he gave it back to you in a bag as he was not authorized to take it off site. You then arranged for the bag of oxide to be incinerated, which was overkill, but gave you that all important bit of certification.

      3. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Recycling not that easy

        > A service that offers secure destruction of old phones/tablets would be very useful.

        I offer such a service!

        Just send them to:

        Other People's Confidential Data For Sale

        PO Box 123


    2. amajadedcynicaloldfart

      Re: Recycling not that easy


      Quote "Not helped by pointless "single use" crap like disposable electrical vapes" Unquote.

      I would go further. How about single use disposable crap like Starlink? (Which no doubt, Melon Suk insists that the things are made entirely out of 100% sustainable stuff /S)

      Good job that when all those thousand of things finally burn up in the atmosphere, "Harmlessly", problem solved. Yeah?

      Just like burning fossil fuels was once considered harmless, right?

      Disclaimer, I have smoked rollies for decades, but use disposable vapes when I can't use a massively taxed tobacco product. Just to annoy the antivape people.

      1. blackcat Silver badge

        Re: Recycling not that easy

        So long as you are not huffing on the ones that smell like refreshers! Plus it just isn't cool sucking on what looks like a USB stick :)

    3. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Recycling not that easy

      In France, in many shops there are boxes at the entrance when you can freely dump your e-waste for recycling.... hoping it isn't sent to Africa or Asia where some children slaves have to burn and smell the plastic to know if it can be recycled.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Recycling not that easy

      It's pretty easy for me. Every so far in my town there are recycling points which look like an advertising board (think bus stop advertising panel without the rest of the bus stop) only there are holes at the top for batteries, printer cartridges, light bulbs, small electronics, etc...

      If a shop sells something recyclable (e.g. batteries) then they also have to have a recycling point for them near the entrance.

      Of course, I'm not in the UK.

    5. andy gibson

      Re: Recycling not that easy

      That's where the website is useful.

      Although it lists two recycle sites near me (we used to call them tips BITD) it also lists other places I can recycle.

      For example I can take my old mobile to Tesco, Sainsburys, the YMCA and Argos

  6. Doctor Trousers

    I fully support any campaigning and lobbying for the right to repair, but what we need is regulation for how devices are designed and manufactured. Companies should be being fined or taxed up the wazoo for making stuff that breaks and can't be repaired.

    if it was up to me, the amount of duty that had to be paid to import devices made by any particular company would be directly proportional to their iFixit repairability score. You want to make a phone out of glass and design it so the damned screen or battery can't be replaced? you're free to do that, but it'll be a luxury product at luxury prices, and it won't be the phone that every network pushes people to take with their contract.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How will manufacturers remain around to provide the spares for repair if they've been pretty heavily restricted in selling new stuff?

      It's pretty apparent from all of the comments here that there's very low understanding of the economics of manufacturing, little appreciation of how expensive it is to maintain spares availability for older products, of how obsolescence enables the creation of new and better products, and how product design and innovation would completely die under such a draconian world of government imposed regulation. And as I work for a government regulator with some notable interests in this topic, I can assure you that it would be massively costly to police and have enormous unintended consequences that you really wouldn't like.

      By all means, write to your MP demanding that a People's Eco-Soviet should impose draconian rules on what all products should be like, and enforce swinging taxes on those that don't meet the approved standards - it's a job for life for me then - but the end outcome is going to be far slower innovation, for crap products and inadequate standards to hang around for even longer than they otherwise would, and much higher cost of new products, and even then you'll barely make a dent in the average life of many tech products because there's still steady attrition from accidents, accidental loss, theft, and because multiple failures could still put a product beyond sensible repair - eg replacing a busted micro-USB socket might make sense, but if the battery's stuffed and the screen's seen better days then there's not much case for doing any of those repairs.

      1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

        "It's pretty apparent from all of the comments here that there's very low understanding of the economics of manufacturing, little appreciation of how expensive it is to maintain spares availability for older products, of how obsolescence enables the creation of new a better products..."

        Perhaps people here do understand a lot of the implications, but are still willing to accept more expensive products and slower product development if it means reduced e-waste and longer lasting stuff (that can be repaired).

  7. tony72

    It's inevitable

    It's an inevitable consequence of cheap products. We recently had a six year old 65" TV repaired, and it cost ~£300 (about £100 was the callout fee). It wasn't a complicated repair, but spare power supply boards are no longer available for that model, so the guy had to take it away and do some component-level repairs. Now the fact is that you can get a new low-end 65" TV for about £300 now, or a comparable model to the LG that broke for just a couple of hundred more. So it was just barely worth fixing, anything smaller than 65" wouldn't have been worth it. Any repair requiring any significant technician time is going to get expensive very quickly, so printers, TVs, phones, kitchen gadgets costing less than a couple of hundred quid, it's just never going to be worth paying someone to fix it once it's out of warranty. So if it breaks, it's headed for the tip.

    1. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: It's inevitable

      Yup. It's the cost of the people involved that is the problem.

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: It's inevitable

        No, it's the lack of cost in making the thing in the first place that's the problem.

        Back when we made our own stuff, the cost of making and repair scaled together. Now it does not. One of the "benefits" of Globalisation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's inevitable

          "Back when we made our own stuff, the cost of making and repair scaled together."

          Rose tinted spectacles, I'm afraid. The very point of mass manufacturing is to knock out stuff with tools, jigs, processes and design that eliminate or minimise labour. It's always been proportionately far more expensive to repair something than to make it (as any car owner knows). Moreover maintaining spares inventory and spare parts systems is costly with the result spare parts are far more expensive than the original bucket of bits the manufacturer used. The reason every town used to have a TV repair shop was two fold - TV's were costly to make with a lot of manual assembly and little or no IC technology, so were a sizeable investment for buyers, and because TV technology moved so slowly there was no trend of rapid obsolescence. It's worth noting that the manual assembly and basic technology didn't make for an environmentally better product - CRT TVs were heavy, used a lot of materials, a lot of power, and at end of life left a lot of materials of little or no value, or that were pretty hard to usefully recycle such as the tube itself, and the power use (size of size) was far worse on the old CRT sets.

          With offshore manufacture, it is the case that assembly labour is even cheaper than repair labour (although the old TV repairman charged a lot more than the assembly workers got paid at say Toshiba's Plymouth assembly plant). But the AMOUNT of labour is also dramatically less in new products. Take a car, it's the same again - something like a Nissan Juke probably has a mere 18 hours of assembly labour, yet you'll be charged two and a half hours labour just to change the oil and filters at a main dealer.

        2. Grunchy Silver badge

          Re: It's inevitable

          Modern construction might allow for easy deconstruction, too. You could grasp a discarded board with a robotic gripper, expose it to a heated oven, and then, with a quick flick of the wrist, shake off all or most of those surface-mount parts.

  8. Kurgan Silver badge

    Tell it to Microsoft and windows 11

    As I have stated before, tell it to Microsoft that is making us dump millions of PCs because windows 11 does not support older hardware.

    1. TReko

      Re: Tell it to Microsoft and windows 11

      This is it. Perfectly good machines are being scrapped because of Windows 11's silly hardware requirements.

    2. tatatata

      Re: Tell it to Microsoft and windows 11

      And that is just the windows PC. Many Android phones become unusable when the banking app requires a minimum version of Android, but the vendor decides not to provide that for older phones. Same for Sat Navs: older type of devices don't get map updates anymore.

      It is not so much the right or obligation to repair; it should be the obligation to support: Every vendor of a device should support 15 years of updates of software to keep the device operational and functional after first sale to a consumer. That would limit the landfill.

      As for Windows: I would love to see the discussions between Dell and Microsoft about 15 years support after last sell.

    3. Russell Chapman Esq.

      Re: Tell it to Microsoft and windows 11

      MS does allow you to update older HW legitimately to Win 11, if you know how. My 2012 laptop, without TPM etc, started on Win 8 then progressed to Win 10. I thought I was stuffed regarding Win 11, but no. Full updates after the upgrade and the upgrade uses only legitimate MS options. Check out Chris Waite on YT and his Win 11 upgrade videos. No dodgy 3rd party SW. Purely an MS approved way of getting the job done, even if it is not widely advertised.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Tell it to Microsoft and windows 11

        We're talking about yet more tonnes of landfill created as a direct result of MS' update policy. We don't need solutions for the cognoscenti to make them feel all special, we need less stringent hardware requirements for Windows 11 or longer support for Windows 10.

  9. frankvw

    What right to repair?

    Oh please. We haven't had any "right to repair" store bought kit for decades! Most products are typically glued shut at the factory, so when the rechargeable battery conks out you can't open the device to replace the battery. I've got a shaver, a phone and an E-book reader, all of which are still fine except that the battery has reached its maximum number of charge/recharge cycles. But none of these devices has any screws in it, and any attempt to pry them open will either cause serious damage to the casings, thus ruining the look of the device, or break off the internal clips that are designed to snap shut forever. This is nothing new: in 1999 I had this problem with my Palm V organizer that had been glued shut at the factory. I'd used it a lot so the battery conked out before this type of device was obsolete, but I couldn't keep using it or replace the battery. Nothing has changed since. It's all had to go into the bin, much as I hate that.

    Then there's the lack of spare parts. I had a very nice coffee maker (a well-known brand, too) that had been sitting in the box for about 6 months while events beyond my control turned my life upside down and I had to move three times in half a year. Finally I got it out of the box, plugged it in, and enjoyed it very much... Until after about 3 weeks the heating element suddenly packed up. By then the warranty had expired, the manufacturer had replaced it with another model, and replacement parts were no longer being stocked. So into the bin it had to go.

    Right now I'm refurbishing a Bosch stove/loven combination that came with the house we bought. It's fine, except that the spark igniters for the oven no longer work after the previous owner had something in there that boiled over badly and covered the whole thing in hot (and therefore corrosive) grease so the spark electrode has corroded away. It's about 10 years old, but even Bosch (not exactly a Chinese fly-by-night sweatshop in Wang Dong province) can't supply the replacement electrodes anymore. And because the oven burner is located underneath a heat diffusor plate you need the spark igniter; you can't get to it with a match or barbecue lighter. So unless I can find another model igniter and MacGyver that into service somehow(fat chance) this whole expensive kitchen appliance is now just a boat anchor.

    Electronics are not that much different. Nine out of ten appliances, from microwaves and dishwashers to my "industry grade" vacuum chamber sealer, use an FPGA to control the whole thing. When that goes (and it does go, far more often than you'd think) you're stuffed because you need the PROGRAMMED replacement component, which you can't get because they're not supplied as a part. At that point replacing the entire electronics board is your only option, but even if (and that's a big if) the manufacturer can supply it at all, you'll usually pay so much for it that simply replacing the whole dang appliance makes more sense from a money standpoint.

    Right to repair? Don't make me laugh.

  10. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Right to repair is a tiny sticking plaster.

    It's becoming a green-washing lifestyle choice that allows its practitioners to feel good about themselves.

    Tut tut The Reg for just bolting on some self-appointed RTR spokesfolk - yet again! - onto an article about a UN report. If you're not clarifying the situation then you are muddying it. If you don't know what you're writing about then ask - there is some experience and wisdom in amongst the commentards. Use critical thinking - distinguish yourself from an LLM search assistant.

    (Sent from a refurbished phone. My laptop is ten years old, my desktop and monitor second hand. I bought for £15 from a charity shop a 50" Sony Bravia TV with weird artifacts - ie not an obvious issue with the panel - and fixed it by replacing the TCon PCB). I reserve my money for good beer, shoes and underwear, which I buy new.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Right to repair is a tiny sticking plaster.

      "It's becoming a green-washing lifestyle choice that allows its practitioners to feel good about themselves."

      What, rather like many of the posts in this thread?

      The eco-piety on display here is very touching, but I have some very good understanding of the UK's emissions footprint, and the big ticket issues that affect that, so in case it's not already obvious using a few older or secondhand goods isn't going to redeem anybody. In Yorkshireman style, I'll report that my TV is both smaller and probably a lot older than most - 13 years old, 43" but it's also probably using a lot more power than current larger models.

      Simply living and moving in Britain gives the majority of us a huge carbon footprint. Anybody who wants to save the planet needs to move to an area where the climate's warm enough to minimise winter heating needs, cool enough in summer to need minimal cooling, and land is cheap enough to live on a low value add job that doesn't inherently rely on a high emissions value chain (like anything in IT), nor have a local economy that involves commuting.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Right to repair is a tiny sticking plaster.

        Well... the great and the good decided that commuting had to come back so here we all are again, wilfully increasing the world's carbon footprint.

        [Insert picture of Major Kong sat upon the missile here.]

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Very wise!

    Even good second-hand beer tastes like piss.

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    Churn Baby Churn!

    E-waste inferno!

    Churn baby churn!

  13. Potemkine! Silver badge
  14. herman Silver badge

    Enshittification of Crapware

    One would expect the enshittification of high tech kit would help with organic decay.

  15. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    words to live by

    "Right to Repair should be the Obligation to Repair"

    I like that. too much shit is getting binned for no good reason. It'll never happen though , because capitalism.

    Cars - written off because the design is such that a broken headlight outweighs the value of the car. Oh no sir , we cant use second hand parts , and we charge $5k for that part for some reason .

    If there was some sort of incentive for the "Make do and mend" , recycle , upcycle , reuse , freecycle , pass on , avoid landfill mentality I'd be a millionaire! ... and probly less inclined to that stuff

    1. blackcat Silver badge

      Re: words to live by

      You blame capitalism but behind the scenes a lot of this comes down to design coupled with requirements for modern standards such as energy efficiency.

      Modern car light assemblies are now pretty much a sealed unit with all the LEDs and the such. In one respect 'easier' as you don't need to worry about blown bulbs (unless its a Jag with burnt out LEDs) but now that unit isn't just a hollow plastic shell into which you clip some bulbs. It is now a horrifically complex sealed unit with PCBs and the such. People (generally) want cars with funky looking lights and don't like swapping burnt bulbs so as a natural progression of design and technology we have ended up here.

      Same goes for a light bulb. An old bulb was 90% glass with a bit of tungsten, some generic metal for the base and a tiny bit of plastic to keep L and N from touching. Now LED bulbs are large chunks of aluminium with plastic and electronics stuck to them. The energy savings are good and the bulb life is now decent. Long gone are the days of turning on the light to be greeted with a bright white flash and a swift return to the original darkness.

      1. jospanner

        Re: words to live by

        Nonsense. There is no reason a headlight assembly can’t be standardised, either in whole or in part, and they most definitely do not cost the OEM that much to make - imagine how expensive the new car itself would be otherwise.

        This is profit seeking, pure and simple. They get to make money on the original part, *and* a ton of money on the replacement, because where else can you go? The thing is unique to the car. They don’t sell spares out of the kindness of their hearts, it’s because it’s profitable.

        1. blackcat Silver badge

          Re: words to live by

          All headlights used to be round and either 5.75" or 7" in diameter and they were not very good. Wanky car lights are now a selling point, with the auto blinding, animated indicators and funky shapes. Who would buy a BMW BINI if it didn't have union flag shaped tail lights?? :)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: words to live by

            "All headlights used to be round and either 5.75" or 7" in diameter and they were not very good."

            The reason they changed to LED or HID was because regulators wanted lower emissions, and key to that is minimising on board power demands. The fact that they displaced rotten old halogen candle in a pie dish headlights (as fitted to my 2016 Octavia) was largely incidental.

            1. blackcat Silver badge

              Re: words to live by

              The pie dish was also pretty rubbish at making the light go where it was wanted. The upside is better performance for the same optical power with the downside of worse dazzle as the beam is very sharply defined.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: words to live by

        There's no reason why bulbs in e.g. cars, light fittings or mirrors can't be removable, they're just sealed inside for exactly the same reason as batteries are in mobile phones.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: words to live by

          "There's no reason why bulbs in e.g. cars, light fittings or mirrors can't be removable, they're just sealed inside for exactly the same reason as batteries are in mobile phones."

          There is in fact bloody good reasons for sealed assemblies, and that's because it costs a lot more to make something that's built for refitting, and that's a waste of money when for many vehicles the LEDs will last longer than the vehicle itself. A dismantle-able fitting also introduces multiple additional points of failure (moisture ingress which is a big concern for car makers, mis-fitting of replacements, poor electrical connections, the greater robustness required for multiple disassembly, the need to allow wasted space in the engine compartment).

          You might as well rail against Canbus technology - yes it introduces new problems, but it dramatically simplifies design and manufacture, reduces the amount of raw materials required, and lowers the labour needed for manufacture.

          Not everything is an eco-conspiracy.

        2. tatatata

          Re: words to live by

          The problem is not whether or not the bulbs in the light fittings are replaceable. The fact that the unit can be replaced makes it possible for a car to be repaired. You don't have to throw away the car when a headlight breaks.

          Of course, you might want to refurbish parts that you use to repair the car. That becomes even more important when a car gets older. At some point in time, those nicely shaped lights from your brand new car will be out of stock, and then, if you cannot refurbish parts, you may need to get rid of your car when the headlight breaks.

          1. blackcat Silver badge

            Re: words to live by

            There have been some horrors. I think it was the late 2000 era Renault Clio where you basically had to disassemble the front of the car to get at the headlamp bulbs.

            My sister has a Mazda 2 with a cracked rear light, not an MOT failure just a crack in the outer clear cover. Can I find a replacement?? HA!! They are proper rocking horse poop rare. Seems truly stupid to scrap a car cos the rear light is a bit fogged and green.

      3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: words to live by

        "People (generally) want cars with funky looking lights"

        Well they shouldnt be allowed to av em! ( capitalism! ) .Did you know in the USA there was only one approved headlight that had to be used from the 20s to as recently as the eighties? Imagine how cheap and easy to replace they would be! More parts should be "cross platform" like spark plugs and batteries are - why are not Alternators and starter motors a universal fit ?

  16. naive

    It is all about incentives

    The example of Cuban cars show that when there are incentives, like scarcity, people become very creative in keeping their over 50 year old US made cars running.

    The only way to limit E-Waste is to effectively choke off the supply of future E-Waste that enters Western harbors with a rate of 1000's shipping containers each day.

    It will raise prices of those goods due to scarcity, after a certain tipping point free market mechanisms set in, and repair becomes economically viable.

    It will require that the current economic model, based on unsustainable and polluting production in regions with low wages, is torn down.

    This model of cheap production of things with a short lifecycle and the resulting flooding of Africa with E-Waste is solidified by agreements in the WTO, this all has to change if some serious attempt is made to reduce E-Waste. Implementing this will not make us poor, people who are now busy with keeping the supply chain of Chinese junk alive, will then get jobs in the repair sector.

    Less imports implies less shipping, which is also a huge benefit since ships are very polluting.

    Changing the people is the most difficult, since most people think that repair means tossing it in the garbage and go to aliexpress to buy new.

    1. 43300 Silver badge

      Re: It is all about incentives

      The Cuban cars were simple devices with basic electrics and no electronics though - with modern cars (and especially anyhting from the last 10 years) it's often going to be impossible.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is all about incentives

        And they're polluting shit heaps. The idea of stopping new technology is based on the idiotic premise that there's no upsides to that new technology, and there's no downsides to old technology.

  17. Persona

    Why would you do that ?

    if you parked them end-to-end and paved the relevant oceans

    I suspect paving the relevant oceans would have far far worse environmental implications than the e-waste in the containers .........

  18. Grunchy Silver badge

    A metric ton is spelled “tonne”

    I think you pronounce it a little different too. So, you might put on some boxing gloves and photoshop biceps, like Macron (pronounced different than “Micron”), and you say maybe with a bit of nasal emphasis: “I hit you like metric tonne of bricks!”

    1. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: A metric ton is spelled “tonne”

      Why is 1000 kg. not called a megagram?

      1. Random person

        Re: A metric ton is spelled “tonne”

        > The tonne (t) is an SI-compatible unit of mass equal to a megagram (Mg), or 103 kg.

        1. tatatata

          Re: A metric ton is spelled “tonne”

          You're missing an exponential sign. A tonne is 10^3 kg, not 103.

          1. JulieM Silver badge

            Re: A metric ton is spelled “tonne”

            10^3 would be 9. You're thinking of 10**3.


            0011 ^



      2. tatatata

        Re: A metric ton is spelled “tonne”

        It is. A great white shark is 0.89 megagram and a skateboarding rhinoceros is 1.5 megagram.

        The name "tonne", or "metric ton" for cross-ponders, is just used as a colloquialism. Like a quid for a pound or a grand for a kilopound.

  19. RedGreen925 Bronze badge

    "Right to Repair should be the Obligation to Repair"

    Ah but think about all the slave labour employed by the parasite corporations and the forgone outrageous ripoff profits by the planed obsolescence. I mean really how will the hookers and blow bonuses survive, with the lessened profits for the slime ball management to distribute among themselves.

  20. BenMyers

    Right to repair is almost a non-starter

    Right to repair sounds very nice. How about "Design to be repaired?" That would put Apple out of business without a complete redesign of it product lines, built as difficult to repair so we'll throw it away. Microsoft Surface is in the same cetegory, and lots of other computer electronics.

  21. Col_Panek

    I, for one, welcome

    ... the buying of new gadgets, especially computers. I used to buy refurbs for around $200, but now I get free ones that are just fine for what we need to do. Nothing more pleasurable than erasing Windows from a hard drive.

    1. DarthKegRaider

      Re: I, for one, welcome

      Same brother.... Give me the 2nd hand market for laptops. They run Linux just fine for what I need. Have a free virtual beer on me.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like