Posted by in May's Magazine

Manufactured obsolescence, boosting profit and generating e-waste, Apple’s battery life controversy is a recent example that exacerbates the problem; China is refusing to take more e-waste from the west; ignore the pressure to upgrade, embrace second hand goods.

Suggested Titles:
Is it beautiful because it’s new?
Drop the pie and pick up the spanner.
Yesterday is cheaper than today.


’m writing this remembering the recent Valentine’s Day – there’s an odour of rich food in the kitchen and the remains of Prosecco, amidst some pawed over oyster shaped chocs that found little take-up from my (current) girlfriend. I recall the price crashed on such romantic confections from £6 to £1 overnight. The Poundland romantic in me has a drawer of stashed ‘25p only’ cards accumulated on 15th February – the call of the wild or just the appeal of cheap?

Don’t you find cupid day much cheaper twenty-fours on? I’m holding out for similar bargains on Commonwealth Games merchandise once the closing ceremony gets out the door. You’d be surprised how many price-sensitive shoppers share my appetite for redundant stock, and if you squint and look at goods in the half-light, it could be any generic, non-copyright character from the last fifty years of sporting wonder. Timing plus careful shopping, you will observe, induces smugness and celebration on a budget.

The same does not hold true for advert-induced pressure to upgrade our technology. How lame, ugly and broken down the iPhone 8 seems (like a lecherous drunk barfly hitting on unsuspecting young serving staff) beside the gleaming, new, sexy iPhone X. Flirting on its white pedestal at gaping urban hipsters in the pure white Apple store/temple. “How stupid are you to not just buy me?” Even though the release dates between the two is a scant six months.

I am blessed with less of an appetite for form over function than Apple’s preferred customer. My flirtation with the company’s products began and ended with an old iPod Nano found abandoned in a hedge ten years ago – beautiful because it was free, not because it was new. I troubleshoot tech for a living among the older population and my client’s shower me with old castoffs. More than I can list, use, or possibly retain.

Hubris, though not the sole preserve of Apple’s merry band, operates alongside an insatiable demand for profit. When considering the recent controversy over battery life, many journalists suggested the ‘fruity one’ was inducing under-performance to speed up upgrades and drive sales. Public awareness of the corporation’s cheap $29 battery replacement, rather than the $1000 new hotness product yielded bad news for their bottom line. A recent one percent dip in iPhone sales also suggested that consumers were tiring of the upgrade cascade.

As China flexes it’s manufacturing muscles and begins to refuse importation of electronic waste and other recyclables, a more economic approach to consumption is set to become the new mainstream. Today alone I have Freegle, the swap site, picking up two printers. While I’m nabbing a couple of LPs to keep up with the hard-to-fathom vinyl revival; Archie McCulloch’s Scottish Dance Party 1974 featuring Strip the Willow, The Gay Gordons, The Lerwick Two-Step) and Disco Hits ‘75 (Jasper Carrot, Gary Glitter and Minnie Riperton together at last – anyone?).

These two appear alongside two hundred other quality titles surprisingly still available. I shall also be wrecking Beatles numbers with a free Xbox Rockband drum kit I acquired, this very night, and have recently sold ten jackets dumped by the bins – possibly from a crime scene investigation but still worth a listing once the blood’s out. My online sale account is jammed with anything I can find for nothing and sell for something, self-interest allied with a little cash, surely the best incentive not to bin things with a post-new value.

Checkout scenes in Blade Runner 2049, now a mere thirty years away, it has underground sweatshops jammed with jailed children stripping out precious metals from circuit boards. However, with your help and commitment to social change, we can make this a reality for our children long before then. It won’t require any increase in council tax rates, will reduce class sizes and instil a strong sense of discipline amongst the under tens, which is so lacking in these cynical 2018 days of revenge porn and fracking.

I’m entreating all persons of good character to end the appetite for the new, not for green reasons but to stick it to advertisers and companies we all know, who make billions by subtly adjusting your mindset to believe that last season’s gadget dé jour is a pile of greasy refuse. Just tell them “this one will do thanks.”

Then get yourself along to free repair site ifixit, bag some screwdrivers and mend not spend. You may get electrocuted but hey, you’ll die soon anyway so give it a go. And the next time you here the protest, “What do we want?” Just answer. “A bit less stuff thanks mate.”

Mark Young

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