This week the Observer asks, 'when is it more efficient to buy an energy-rated appliance than to maintain the old one? Lucy Siegle investigates what she calls ‘the UK's vastly unsustainable electronic and electrical equipment habit.’ As we know even as responsible consumers it is all too tempting to swap old for new, to upgrade to the brighter and shinier model. A lot of us would justify this expense as investing in more energy efficient appliances, therefore they are more environmentally friendly than your old hunk of junk. But, Siegle asks, is it really so eco when all the appliances thrown out go straight into landfill? In the UK ‘2m televisions, 3m fridges and freezers, 2m computers and 2.2m washing machines thrown out each year, and traditionally sent to landfill to form a toxic sludge of metal, wires, silicon chips and cadmium’. Apparently an EU Waste Electronic and Equipment Directive (WEEE) is supposed to come into action to ensure that ‘the manufacturer or retailer disposes of the products in a sustainable way.’ Unfortunately, it has recently been postponed in the UK, for a third time, until 2007. Siegle advises that if you are thinking of upgrading your kitchen appliances it might be worth waiting till this directive is in place. If however, you can’t afford to upgrade or think that your old appliances are still in perfect working order then it is possible to save some of the energy guzzled by the fridge or cooker by using a Savaplug, which reduces ‘the flow of electricity to match the actual amount needed’.
Another valid point that Siegle makes is that even if you are in proud possession of A+ rated energy efficient fridge you might not want to seem too smug since the White Goods industry 'remains conspicuous by it’s absence' from the debate on international labour rights. To double check the ethical production record of your kitchen brands have a look at the Ethical Consumer magazine. Other sensible suggestions include donating your old appliances to the Furniture Re-use Network or locate the spare parts to fix your ‘SUV of the kitchen’ through www.partmaster.co.uk. Thanks to Lucy Siegle. Read the full Observer article here.