Why throwing away is so hard

October 20, 2021 by No Comments

Thank you. According to the Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo, you have to say that word out loud to say goodbye to excess possessions and thereby improve the quality of your life. Thank you, old clothes. Thank you, old computer and hi-fi set. Hold it one more time, then get rid of it.

Decluttering, as Kondo preaches, was nothing for my father. He belonged to the custodian generation. As a techie and repair guru, he hoarded anything that might come in handy; later, sometime, maybe, whole or in parts. The purchase date was immortalized on each device with a waterproof marker.

Such thrift and diligence builds houses like castles. But when the lord of the castle has died, his kingdom still goes to the recycle bin. And to the bulky waste, 1,480 kilos to be precise.

Emptying your parental home consumes energy. There is tidying up, but the tidy feeling is missing. Moreover, the fear of throwing away is hereditary, because I recognize my father’s three memorabilia in myself. There are three facts:

1) You never know – which is why I still keep boxes full of old cables and plugs.

2) do you remember – out of nostalgia you keep your first phone or your first camera, game console, et cetera.

3) Do you know what that cost? Once a rib out of your body, now not worth a penny. It’s hard to accept that.

According to Marie Kondo, only one question is important: does it spark joy? – does one thing give you pleasure? Otherwise it can go away.

Many people turned the corona year into a Kondo year to make room at home. According to the thrift companies, a record number of second-hand items was collected in 2020. More old equipment was also discarded. OPEN Foundation, which supports the collection of e-waste regulates, reported last month that 125 million kilos of discarded electronics and lamps were collected. Neatly separated, so that raw materials can be reused. Despite this record, we have not yet reached the desired e-waste collection quota of 65 percent. And that’s not going to happen, because we buy way too much new stuff.

Jan Vlak, director of the OPEN Foundation, explains over the phone how the collection quota is calculated: you take the weight of all electronics that have been brought onto the market – averaged over the last three years – and divide it by the kilos of electronics that have been handed in. at 13,000 Wecycle collection points.

We buy a lot more things with plugs and batteries; from 316,000 tons in 2016 to more than 700,000 tons in 2020. A lot of stuff was bought, especially in the corona year. Laptops, monitors, Wi-Fi hotspots, electrically adjustable desks. And now: TVs, fans, air conditioners and kitchen appliances – not to be dragged around.

Popular products such as solar panels and e-bikes are bought en masse but are far from being thrown away, says Vlak. If such electronics last longer than ten or fifteen years, the collection quota decreases. “We are now at 48 percent. If you exclude the solar panels, it is 58 percent.”

This collection quota, imposed by the government, is therefore a perverse incentive, says Vlak. The longevity of items is not taken into account. And the number of kilograms collected says nothing about the amount of poison that does not end up in the environment, the reusable parts or the avoided CO2emissions.

Flat has nothing against buying new electronics — all that equipment has kept the economy running remotely for the past year. But there’s nothing wrong with collecting. “It would be nice if people pay as much attention to throwing things away as they do to buying new things.”

That statement can be put on a tile. Besides that one from Marie Kondo: does it spark joy?

Marc Hijink writes about technology here every Wednesday. Twitter: @MarcHijinkNRC

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