Talking Trash… E-Trash

Tech is constantly evolving. Supposedly that’s a good thing. Yet, as cashiers are ringing up the new devices into our lives… the old ones we’re “ringing out” are becoming E-waste. That rapidly, ever-accumulating junk pile is akin to a metastasizing cancer.

It all seems so futile… enough to make the environmentally minded wring our hands. If not dealt with promptly and properly, these dead devices will sicken Earth… and if not dealt with before it’s too late… sooner or later it will be too late. Most likely sooner.

Once upon a time… in the days of vacuum tube radios and TVs…

Whenever there was a malfunction, all the consumer needed to do was open up the device to see which tube wasn’t lighting up. Then (while being careful not to get electrocuted) one could easily remove it, take it into any respectable hardware store and plug it into a tester.

If the meter reading confirmed it was “dead”, it then became a simple matter of buying a new tube, taking it home, plugging it back in and all was well. The E-waste was small enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand.

Even when it was the picture tube, TV repairpersons could still easily save the lives of these devices.

Then… came the transition to the transistor…

Fortunately, TV manufacturers had not given up on that ease of repair feature. The electric modules, which they had invented, were still easy for field technicians to service. These modules then could be taken back to the repair shop to be refurbished into usefulness.

But now… in our modern era…

When that big ol’ flat screen gives up the ghost… when repair costs are far more expensive than just going out to Best Buy to buy a new one… we, the consumers, wind up dealing with broken down tech in three ways.

A. Some of us go the E-graveyard route, aptly enough, storing these “corpses” below ground level in our basements.

B. Others use garbage bags as burial shrouds to promptly, irresponsibly, send everything off to the landfill.

C. Still others turn to makeshift dumping areas… using roadside ditches, vacant lots, their mayors’ front lawns… etc. (J.K. re those mayors).

So… what’s a local government to do?

Mayors / City Councils can either green light the hiring of more police officers to try to nab, in the act, these hit and run dumpers… OR… green light the Go-Green approach… i.e., give the townsfolk an easy method to dispose of no longer useful / broken E-items.

Fortunately, my hometown opted for the latter…

A few days ago I responsibly recycled a literal car trunk full of my broken down and/or antiquated audio/video/computer gear. For me, this was a feel good moment in more ways than one.

The obvious payoff… I had done my part to save our planet.

However… my reward did not end there.

You see… year in / year out as my tech ceased to function, I had stored these components in the same cartons they were originally packed in and then interred these makeshift “coffins” in my basement E-graveyard.

It was as my community’s E-recycling day was approaching, that I decided to give each device one last chance.

The very first item I had “exhumed” was a top of the product line, early 1990s era Sony CD player. As I gently placed it on my audio rack, I marveled over how good it still looked… good enough to be displayed on a store’s selling floor.

I then connected it to my amp, fed it some 120-volt “juice” and once the tray slid open, inserted a CD. However… upon closing it, the same old problem resurfaced… the display screen read “no disc”.

Now, admittedly, what I’m about to say will sound nuts, but I actually wound up giving a motivational pep talk to this device. Hey… in my defense… some people DO talk to their plants, right? Said I…

“Damn it… you’re a Sony. You CAN do better than that! Back in 1991, they built you like a tank… one, which they were about to send off to war! Where the Hell is your pride?”

Well, I then gave that open / close tray button a second try… and still got confronted by that stubborn “no disc” message.

As I removed the CD and was just about to proclaim the player to be dead as a doornail… all the sudden… an idea struck me. What if the problem was something ridiculously easy to repair… oh… say… an accumulation of internal dust? What did I have to lose in trying something really low-tech… a method I had doubted would ever officially get written into any repairperson’s manual?

Channeling the MO of the big bad wolf (you know that childhood storybook dude who had terrorized the 3 Pigs), I huffed and puffed three times into the open tray’s compartment.

Then, upon reinserting the CD… in utter astonishment… I watched as the display screen filled with the track/timing data. Pressing the play button… I nearly blew the roof off the dump with this very song…

Folks, I had, literally, breathed new life into that dead component. True… the other items I had tested hadn’t fared so well… but… hey… at least I tried.

And, since music is such a big part of my life… every time I now use my revived CD player I am reminded not to be too quick to wave the white flag of surrender… which, btw, is also a great way for every one of us to live out other areas of our lives. Additionally, I now feel renewed nostalgia for those bygone, better days… that era, long gone, when tech was built to last… when even home repairs of this tech ruled.

I sure hope I’m not alone in feeling this way, because, if big name manufacturers start to share similar sentiments, that would be tantamount to taking the first step towards saving our planet.

The time has come for manufacturers to end built in obsolescence… to not dole out “new and improved” advances, piecemeal, every six months… all of which, while generating capital for these greedy bastards, is needlessly generating E-waste.

That “Everything Is Broken” way of life needs to exist only in the realm of past story and song.