29 June 2006

Disposable deposits

At the Fan Fests for the world cup here in Germany there is a deposit system in place when you buy a beer (or any drink for that matter), which mean when you buy a €3.50 beer, it costs €4.50 as you have to pay €1 for the (plastic) glass, which you get back when you return the glass.

This great idea means much less litter is strewn around the festival sites, making the general environment much more pleasant for everyone, and probably much cheaper clearing-up costs.

What if we extended this to more areas of our lives? Can you imagine the hundreds of thousands of pieces of electronic equipment that are discarded every year in the western world. Mountains of telly's, piles of PCs and hills of Hi-Fi systems. And the majority of this 'rubbish' ends up in a dump, to be buried under ever more rubbish, ad finitum.

Surely most elements that compromise electronic equipment could be recycled and used in the production of newer equipment with a small amount of effort. Also, many electronic components contain toxic substances, such as mercury, lead and cobalt, which are hazardous to our environment if not properly disposed of (or reused).

How can we get people to be responsible with respect to recycling electronic goods? With a deposit system, as used by the Fan Fest organisers for glasses. When you go to buy your new HD 60 inch TV, you should have to pay a deposit (say 5% of the cost), which you only get back when you feel the TV has run its course, and you bring it to a place where it can be properly disposed of. This would probably stop most people from simply chucking electronic goods out at the most handy place available (i.e. the local dump site, or, if it fits, the bin).

Most people (and I include myself in this) most of the time, will think of the consequences only when it affects their wallet. Time to hit us where it hurts!


Anonymous said...

It's a very good idea and as far as I remember has already been discussed by various parliaments.
Don't Dell have something in place like that? Not a deposit on hardware but an incentive to return it as they pay you money if you do so?!

One problem is that this glass is in you possession for some 30 mins until you return it and a tele might be 10 years... Maybe something like, you get it cheaper if you trade in your old tele (but normally that goes to the children or spare room or toilet).

Anonymous said...

One of our TV's at home is 20 years old. It probably cost the equivilent of 30 euros back then. I would get 1.50 back under you proposal then. That is no enough of an incentive to dispose of it properly. Also, I don't have the receipt for it, so how would we know how much the pfand is anyway.

The pfand system works for easily disposable things, but will never work for electronics that you might keep for many years.