Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle … oh, and Repair. This is a postscript to my 4th May blog, when I proudly showed off my CD player repair. I was banging on about the all-to-common event of having to “throw away” (to be buried in landfill) a perfectly good electrical device just because one small, yet irreplaceable, part has finally finished functioning.

Our kitchen blender managed to shred its rubber sealing ring (I don’t think it had been properly screwed together after washing it one time) so liquids were out of bounds until we replaced it. Happily, in this instance, replacement components are easily available. What shocked me initially was the price. At first glance it seems the list of components available would allow you to build a blender from scratch … but at the price of a small family car. With electrical appliances coming in from the Far East at unfeasibly low prices, it’s sometimes cheaper to buy a new thing and bin the old one rather than repairing it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that, but it becomes an ecologic rather than an economic repair. I guess that with all the infrastructure required to store and deliver these bits, bearing in mind that it took over 15 years before I needed the little plastic wheel for the CD player and over five years before I needed one replacement sealing ring for the blender, that the manufacturers need to charge a large amount, pro-rata to the cost of the part, to make it feasible. After my initial feeling that I was being ripped off, I must say that I’m happy that these replacement components are available at all.

And yet another “R”, Replace. Annually in Europe 360 million car tyres enter the waste stream representing annual waste load of 2,5 million tons and I’m about to add another. A couple of weekends ago, we borrowed neighbour Paul’s oldest tractor, a scruffy but serviceable Massey Ferguson and an apparently even older trailer, to get our year’s harvest of logs out of our woods. Over the course of two days, one of the well-worn trailer tyres started losing chunks of rubber and I was caught between not wanting to encounter the gendarmes with so little tread, not wanting to end up stranded with a full trailer and flat tyre and the seductive thought that if I could just get away with another couple of trips, it would all be done for the year. Paul’s incredibly busy at the moment (more of that in the next blog) and I dare not ask him to stop what he was doing and try to sort out the trailer.

I did manage those last couple of trips and when I returned the tractor, I pointed out the tyre destined for the waste stream to Paul. I felt that I’d contributed to its demise, even though I hadn’t overloaded the trailer nor driven too fast or otherwise mistreated it but when you “break” something when borrowing it, you feel obliged. I offered a participation (contribution) towards the cost of a new tyre whereupon he just broke out into laughter. The tyre, apparently, came off some sort of American military landing craft that had made its way into France via the beaches of Normandy during WWII and so was at least 60+ years old! Now I know that the trailer wasn’t in daily use but that is impressive, on any terms. Wouldn’t it be great if tyre manufacturers made tyres with a true lifetime’s guarantee: so good that when you crushed an old banger, you took the tyres off to fit to your new car?