by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Recycling makes people believe that they do good for the Planet, but is that really so?
Now that products can be recycled and their components be reclaimed – by law in many countries – people think that it it fine to buy a new gadget, even though their old one still works perfectly, as they can recycle it.
The very recyclability of almost everything nowadays, though being a good thing in a way (and no, I am not contradicting), is making consumers believe that they can just go on consuming regardless as the products can be recycled.
In place of recyclability – or in conjunction with it – we must bring back repairability and the latter is much more important and must have much greater priority even than the former. Things must be made again in such a manner and fashion that they can be easily repaired when the go wrong, as used to be the case not so many decades ago. Corporations, however, make everything now in such a way that repair is either impossible or too costly compared to buying new in order to sell us the same product time and again. This must change and it must change now!
The problem, as we could call it, is the fact though that neither local authorities nor central government and even less so industry are going to entertain this idea in the same way, despite giving lip-service, they also do not like reuse much. Recycling gives governments income from recyclables they collect which you, as citizen, have also so very kindly cleaned and sorted often to make it easier for them.
Now industry, even though very reluctant at first, likes the idea of everything being recyclable thus making the consumer feel good throwing his “old” stuff away and buying new as the goods and their components can be recycled.
Recycling is not energy neutral, however, in comparison to reuse and a lot more energy hungry than would be repair. But the latter two do not keep the economy growing, so the government economists and others.
Repair would, and they never seem to think about it, if products would be repairable again, create new sector – well, not new really, we we once had it already – in the economy, that of, well, repair, of workshops fixing this or that as not everyone would be capable or willing of fixing things themselves.
In the former East Germany, the German Democratic Republic, to give it its proper name, there was a real and proper repair sector that was part of the economy and contributed greatly to it but also and especially to keeping things going for as long as possible.
Many products made in the GDR still work to this very day and they can still be, as long as one has the skills and tools be kept going for many years to come. Today such repairs will have to, in the main, be carried out by the user as the repairmen and -women who once did that work no longer exist.
Because East Germany was short of resources products were made in such a way that they would last as long as possible and also and especially so that they could be repaired if they did break down. Unlike in the capitalist West where, ever since around the late 1970s everything was made with a built-in obsolescence and in a way that prevents repair to ensure that people have to buy new all the time.
It is repairability that we need much more than recyclability, though ideally both combined for when the last rites must be given to a product as will be required at some stage. Recyclability on its own is not good enough. In fact it is bad; period!