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That's right, I said MADE to break!
As mentioned elsewhere on this site, I remember way back, when many things were built to last. Sure it cost a little more to make things this way, but it IS worth it. Better-built products can be repaired, rather than thrown away. Repairing is usually cheaper than replacing. A bigger problem is that all of this cheap junk we buy nowadays gets used for perhaps a year, then winds up in a landfill. I hear they (whoever "they" are), are talking about trying to find another planet for us to live on. Perhaps that's because in x amount of years, this entire planet will be one big landfill! Next time you're in Wal-Mart, take a glance around at all of the merchandise. Then imagine that in a year or two, nearly everything you see will be buried!

Sure we recycle. But really very little. Compare how much trash you set out to the curb each week with how much recyclable material you set out. Probably about 10 to 1! A big problem is that a lot of valuable metals and other materials get buried because there is no easy way to seperate them from worthless plastics etc. I think manufacturers should be required to take their junk back when no one wants it, things would change then. Or at  least charge them an "environmental fee", based on how easy it is to turn their products back into useful materials.

And the recycling system itself has a lot of shortcomings too. In my area, they only accept plastic bottles with necks, no tubs or pails. But the 5 quart ice cream pails I have to throw away seem to have about 15 times more plastic in them than a pop bottle. And all those huge plastic toys, useless because some little quarter-inch tab broke off. Then there's the glass issue. We recycle it, but the pickup and recycling process itself causes most of the glass to get broken before it is sorted. And the broken glass is practically worthless, as it can't be made into new glass because of the mixed colors. In the old days, we used to return our empty bottles to the store and get money for them. Then they were washed and re-used. Sounds a lot more sensible to me! Now they are talking about "single stream" recycling, meaning you don't have to separate the paper from the rest of the recyclables. Problem is, this will result in even more waste in the recycling process, more work seperating the materials, and the possibility of your toilet paper having glass slivers in it! But that's how the goverment thinks. If it'll cost more, let's do it!

Now to the headlines: Several years ago, an electrician friend of mine brought me a Boom Box radio to fix. It had fallen to the floor from the bottom step of a stepladder, and died. I'm not going to give the brand , but it is one of the big 4 letter Japanese brands.

Upon dissassembling the unit, it became obvious to me that the company's engineers spent considerable effort making sure that what had happened to the radio, SHOULD happen. The radio's printed circuit board (the part that all of the other parts mount on to) was engineered to break off at a certain place. This certain place had a perforation (a line of little holes) in it. Half of the circuit board was well-supported within the radio's plastic case. But the other half, beyond the perforations, was not supported at all. And on this half, they put the heaviest part of the whole radio, the power transformer. So if the radio was dropped, even a few inches, the weight of the power transformer will break off the circuit board at the perforations. To hinder anyone from repairing the damage, they included several other parts called resistors, made directly on the circuit board surface, right over the perforated area, so they would be destroyed also.

I did beat the system. I resurrected the circuit board, and with experimentation of different sizes of new resistors, I got the radio working just fine again. Of course, this would not be cost effective to do on a regular basis, it'd be cheaper to buy a new radio. But certainly not cheaper environmentally!

Another buzzword is "maintenance free". That means that it will work for as long as the manufacturer wants it to work, then become landfill material. Designed to be non-repairable. One example is "sealed bearings, no lubrication required". While in many ways sealed bearings are great, they typically remove the option of you relubricating them to extend their life. How much lube the factory puts in when they make them, determines how long they'll last. Then the whole motor or whatever the bearings are used in, usually becomes JUNK!

A laser printer I recently retired had a "drum counter" chip in it. After printing x amount of pages, the machine quit working until a new drum, and a new counter chip, were installed. Although the machine was working just fine, someone else pre-determined for me that I couldn't use it anymore. And that someone-else went out of business, so I had to junk the whole printer. I found some ways on the Internet to reset the counters on many printers, but not mine.

Water heaters are now "new and improved" too. Notice I didn't say "hot water heaters". If the water is already hot, I see no need to heat it! I've seen 35 year old gas water heaters still going strong. But if you are in the market for a new one, buy the one with the longest warranty you can find, because the likelyhood of it lasting more than a week beyond it's warranty is very low. Electric water heaters used to be a permanent part of the house, just needing a new heating element, and cleaning out, once in a while. But they've perfected those so the tank will leak the day after the warranty expires too.


More on this coming soon. Click on the "Home" link above, to learn more!