I hate our disposable society. (I’ll write about how I hate the ever increasing amount of packaging on our disposable products some other time.) Relatively large, relatively sophisticated products (TVs, VCRs, vacuum cleaners, household appliances, cameras, telephones, etc.) are consigned to the landfill at the first sign of trouble.
And because it’s vastly cheaper to let robots (or sweat-shop labor) build new products than it is to provide trained technicians capable of repairing them, they’re designed to be disposable. Most of the durable metal parts have been replaced by molded plastic because they aren’t expected to last very long.
The product that started this rant is our Amana SofSound II dishwasher . A while back, the handle broke and we had it replaced. Last week it broke again and yesterday we had it replaced again. I don’t remember what the washer cost new, but a quick web search for similar sounding models suggests that it was probably somewhere between $300-$400. Apparently, the handle assembly constitutes 18-25% of that cost as a replacement is $74.05:
And why does this handle break? Because every time you open the washer, the entire load placed on the mechanism is distributed across a small plastic bracket with about 0.03125in2 of material support:
That’s criminally poor engineering in my book.
Experience suggests the handle lasts about two years. At $129.95 for the service call and $74.05 for the part (this year, it was less two years ago, even adjusted for inflation, I think), how many times does it make sense to replace the handle before just replacing the whole unit?
On the one hand, the answer is “indefinitely” because the alternative is either finding someone who will accept a used, slightly broken dishwasher as a donation or sending it to the landfill. On the other hand, effectively paying for a new one every four years is hardly the most economical plan.
I just hate throwing these highly engineered (almost entirely non-biodegradable) things away. Four or five years ago, our VCR stopped recording. It would play, but it wouldn’t record. It was, I don’t know, ten years old. If not impossible to get repaired, certainly prohibitively expensive, so we bought a new one. I kept the old one in the basement for years because I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. I just threw out our old vacuum cleaner last week. There was something wrong with one of the belts. We had it repaired twice before giving up (about a year ago).
There is something fundamentally wrong with this paradigm.