Setting sights on E-waste

Is it reasonable that governments allow manufacturers to continue to produce things that are, by design, obsolete within 12 to 36 months. Several prominent manufacturers are producing portable electronic devices which contain rechargeable batteries that are either not replaceable or easily replaced. The moment these batteries can no longer hold a charge, these devices become E-waste.

From my experience, a typical rechargeable battery can last up to 18 months under normal use. Technology is moving at blazing pace and it is in a constant state of change, all which just fuels this E-waste.

This is further compounded if manufacturers don’t give you any option to replacing the batteries. Instead, manufacturers are betting you and I will want the latest gizmo. As consumers, we could just stop purchasing these devices in protest. However, at this point, it appears these devices have become so mainstream as to be required for our daily routines.

So E-waste is a new fact of life that can’t be stopped. However, I believe governments should be enforcing stricter regulations for all electronic manufacturing to at least slow down this trend.

Some suggestions that I believe governments need to be addressing:

1) Disposal of all batteries should immediately be mandated via proper recycling programs complete with refund incentives. Fines could be levied against anyone caught improperly disposing of batteries.

2) All electronic devices requiring one or more batteries should be designed so the batteries are user-replaceable. Any device not meeting these requirements should be banned and returned to their manufacturer with fines.

3)All electronic devices should be designed to use standard batteries. Custom battery design breeds obsolescence and just adds to E-waste. Manufacturers not complying should be fined.

4) Most custom battery packs for laptops, power tools, etc. are currently sealed. These custom packages should be redesigned allowing easy access to the batteries so they can be user replaced. These packages contain more then one battery in a series configuration. If only one battery fails, the entire battery pack currently has to be tossed even if the rest the batteries in the pack are still in usable condition.

5) Any electronic device should be supported for at least 10 years from first date of sale. Lifecycles of three years or less are totally unreasonable. This may sound unreasonable considering that some electronics are obsolete before they even get to market. My point is that if you want to manufacture/market something you shouldn’t be allowed to dump it on the market and walk away from it. Or offer lame warrantees that leave the owner in limbo.

6) Disposal of all electronics should immediately be mandated via proper recycling programs complete with refund incentives. We already pay recycling fees for electronics so these should be refunded when a device is being disposed. Fines should be levied against anyone caught improperly disposing of electronics.

7) With most devices being smart, manufacturers should be providing firmware/software upgrades whenever possible instead of forcing obsolescence through continual hardware redesign. This infers enforcing backwards compatibility.

8) Automotive or electronic devices involved with any means of transportation should be standardized.

The bottom line is: as individuals, we aren’t able to do much of anything to sway these manufacturers to change their ways. Together, we can lobby our government officials to start imposing policies that protect us and our future generations from these wasteful and potentially hazardous trends.


T. Rudersdorfer