printers and other wasteful e-waste

Ok; so the title of this blog is clearly a terrible rip off, of a classic Louis Armstrong song, but I will try and explain myself…

It was a usual Tuesday afternoon, I had nipped out from work and was minding my own business in the queue at the local post office. With two parcels tucked under my arm I aimlessly looked around at the two rows of mainly ‘useless’ items for sale in the racks flanking the queue. Children’s’ books, Keith Urban greatest hits Cd, Chocolate almonds (tempting but I better not) and various electronics. This particular day the queue was moving pretty quickly so I didn’t even have chance to thumb through the pages of 100 great barbecue recipes when I found myself at the front.

Now this is where this story really picks up pace. They guy in front of me who at this stage was being served by a particularly patient postal worker, was looking to purchase a cartridge for his printer. I say the post worker was patient as the guy did not have a code for his printer but instead chose to demonstrate the size of the cartridge using his hands. In a strange sort of ‘the fish I caught was this big’ moment the size of the cartridge apparently was an expandable version!

Anyway I digress, the cartridge clearly was not in stock as what the guy was describing would require one of the post office windows to be removed in order to get it in and out of the shop. Dis-believing of the lack of availability the guy turned for the exit but nearly tripped over a pile of printers cleverly arranged on the floor in a pyramid to entice punters and hurt the elderly! The man did not fall but nearly wept with joy, as he saw a newer version of his printer in the clearance section. (Now this is the moment I have been building too, before you read on, go and get yourself a cup of tea, no wait make it a cold drink just in case having read what is coming next you spit out the hot tea all over yourself!)

The man turned to the patient postal worker and exclaimed “this printer, its on sale?”

The patient postal worker replied “yes, that’s why its in the clearance section!”

The man replied “it’s $9.99?” the patient postal worker responded “correct”.

I nearly died from dis-belief, $9.99 for a desk top printer with cartridge. Now I know how this works, they sell you a cheap printer and then the cartridges are where they make the money, but $9.99!!!! My dis-belief turned to rage, how wasteful I thought. How does this encourage the average man in the street to be responsible, look after the things they surround themselves with to promote longevity in the products we buy… It doesn’t, it encourages wastefulness, it encourages the man to go home and throw away a perfectly good printer, which may or may not be disposed of responsibly in a way in which the parts can be recycled. We live in such a throw away society, especially when it comes to technology, three – six months the latest phone is no longer the latest phone, the next piece of ‘fashionable’ technology has arrived, and this time span is getting smaller.

I come from a background and period of time were things were still treasured (including technology), handed down even and then looked after by a new generation. I know this mentality still exists in a small portion of our society as I have seen it through my furniture restoration work. When someone has a sentimental attachment to something they will invest in its up keep, even if a short term alternative is available for less price. They have the fore-sight to see that actually investing more money to repair or restore a better quality product makes more sense than buying a cheaper replacement that will last a fraction of the time.

And that my friends is why on that particular Tuesday afternoon, I left the local post office shop singing “and I think to myself, what a wasteful world.”

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