Posted Under: Unconsumption
[UPDATE May 6, 2007: Please see the new Unconsumption page for updates, comments, etc., on the below.]
Okay. New topic! Please note this entry concludes with an open call for feedback and suggestions. Let me know if I need to offer a prize or something to get you interested in this topic. I’ll do it.
The topic is “unconsumption.” By this I mean, getting rid of things. I don’t mean voluntary simplicity etc. — I mean we all have to get rid of things sometimes, and as you’re probably aware, this can lead to problems. Basically there are two kinds of things we need to get rid of: things that don’t work and/or are used up, and things that do work but we don’t want them anymore.
One dimension of this that’s gotten a lot of attention is the disposal of gadgetry, from computers to cell phones. There’s a book that’s evidently on this subject — I haven’t read it — called High Tech Trash, by Elizabeth Grossman. (Here’s TreeHugger’s writeup.) And there’s another book called Made To Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America. I haven’t read that either, but here’s an Utne Reader interview with the author, Giles Slade.
A site called Computer Take Back offers information about “which computer companies will take back your old computer, what services they offer, how to uses them, and how to get free recyling.” THere’s also a list of articles, with links, on the subject of “e-waste.”
More broadly, but within the context of stuff that’s used up or doesn’t work anymore, a project called The Art of Recycling looks like a sort of “awareness”-focused kind of thing. Making recycling cool, maybe? Looks like there’s also a kind of store or project involving the selling of cool stuff made from recycled materials. That’s fine, but it’s not my interest here: I’m not interested in things Joe Consumer can buy (in this rare & particular instance), I’m interested in how Joe Unconsumer can get rid of stuff.
A UK outfit called Envirofone touts itself as “the best way to get money for your old mobiles and help the environment.” It does not appear to operate in the U.S. (Here’s a Popgadget writeup.) Another UK project is Reverse Vending Machines, “designed to automate the collection and identification of used beverage containers, issuing a refund receipt or money.” (At least it looks to be a UK thing.) Here’s a Treehugger bit on that.
On getting rid of things that do still work, there’s always donating them to charity in one way or aother. And barter seems to be a popular response. Freecycle (“a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns”) appears to be the most prominent example. It claims more than 2.8 million members. PSFK had this rundown of other barter example (all in the UK, looks like), including Read It Swap It, which is book-focused, and Swapz, which bills itself as “the biggest, most established and original direct swap website where you can swap anything with anyone.”
Have any other, or better, examples? Again my focus is not on how to keep from buying things in the first place (which is fine, it’s just not my focus), but rather on disposal of things you’ve already consumed.
What do you do when you are ready to unconsume them?
Update (December 8): Something else I just found in my files: Ebay has an “initiative” called Rethink that’s aimed at the e-waste issue. According to this old press release, at least, it wa launched in October 2005, to address the “understanding of electronic recycling and reuse options.” There’s a list of places to donate, and another of recycling-oriented organizations. I haven’t checked this out in any detail, but, just adding it to the pile. Also: Some good things in the comments section to check out if you haven’t already…