Repair and Reuse — Recycle Later

The 4th R - RepairThe act of repairing things (or having them repaired by others) has gone woefully out of fashion. It just doesn’t seem to pay anymore. Planned obsolescence and the changed economics brought about by globalization have made buying replacements too cheap and easy.

The result? A throwaway culture that dumps perfectly good resources only to mine the planet for more.

Even when we recycle the resources, we are still engaged in unnecessary waste, as new resources are needed to turn the recycled ones into new products. Of course, recycling is better than disposal, but not good enough when affordable repair is an option.

However, the times, they may be a-changing. Self-help repair groups have sprung up in the Netherlands and American towns like Brooklyn.

Interested in joining the new (old) wave? Read The 4th R: REPAIR for tips on buying more fixable stuff and resources on do-it-yourself repair.


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9 Responses to Repair and Reuse — Recycle Later

  1. Eleanor Hall May 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Some good points! But —

    The energy efficiency of refrigerators has increased dramatically in the last few years. So, depending on the age of the fridge, it might make sense to buy a new one rather than repairing the old one.


    • Sheryl May 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm #


      And this applies to many other appliances as well.

  2. Lynn Sager May 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    I heard that in some European countries manufacturers are required to take back their broken and old products so that they can recycle the components. Do you know if this is true? Wouldn’t it be great if the USA started to make manufacturers do the same thing? Maybe then companies would be a bit more concerned with making products that are lasting, or at least more affordable and repairable.

    • Sheryl May 29, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

      I believe that some European countries and perhaps the EU as well, have some kind of producer responsibility laws, though I don’t know how extensive they are. If I find any details, I’ll post them here. It certainly would be great if we had something like that here.

    • Janelle Ford August 1, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

      I don’t know. I know when I bought my last 3 appliances and my carpet, the company I bought them from removed the old ones. I hope they are recycling them.

  3. James May 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    My band –The Muttering Guppies, wrote a song about this topic. It’s called “Piece of _sh____”.Here’s a sample lyric, “Planned obsolescence it’s the basis of the economy, buy something you think will last and then bury it under a tree.”

  4. cindy May 30, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Repairing is great but lets not forget there is another “R” and it is to “repurpose”. Many ordinary thing we throw away daily can be used for other purposes with a little thought and some creativity.

  5. PKeith June 6, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    It’s very interesting that your family’s experience of the 60s was NOT to repair things, because where I grew up, the attitude was quite different. Mothers knew how to sew and mend things, and fathers knew how to repair basic stuff. And there were shops to go to so that you could repair your toaster. People didn’t throw things out after a couple of years.

    That’s why this article is excellent – it is very timely. But my issue is that everyone is obsessed with iCrap, which is the most built-in of built-in obsolescence. Consumers need to demand products that last for years and don’t “need” to be upgraded every six months. Electronics are too dangerous to be considered disposable when broken.

    BTW James, Neil Young got there first with “Piece of Crap.” Sorry.

  6. Dana August 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    I took my broken floor lamp over to the vacuum repair job, just to get some advice. The arm of the lamp was broken, although everything else worked. The vacuum repairman thought, “You could tape the heck out of it…” Then he just stared at it for a while and said, “Maybe plumbing clips would work.” So, I found myself at the hardware store, looking for plumbing clips—whatever plumbing clips are.”

    What do you know? My lamp is in one piece now, secured by a couple plumbing clips, for maybe $5.00. I avoided trashing the lamp, and saved a little money too.