Design engineer Scott Amron envisages a new way to help you sell, donate, rent or revive stuff you no longer need (or shouldn't have bought in the first place).
We at TreeHugger are not alone in bemoaning the influence of Amazon on people's buying habits, that patented single click, that instant gratification of knowing that the next day your purchase will arrive. Buying stuff has never been so easy and it works; people buy so much. (Full disclosure: I used to own a piece of a bookstore and online shopping helped sink it.)
Another concern has always been the waste. What people do with it all. It may have been a dumb purchase, needs may have changed, or it may have worn out. What do you do then? Amazon is setting up physical locations where you can return stuff that's new and unused, but what about when they no longer meet those criteria for return?
Scott Amron is proposing a concept to deal with this problem. He is a product design engineer and "an award-winning product development workhorse" who has been on TreeHugger a few times. He's developing a project he calls Amazon After to deal with the detritus of the Amazon purchases you no longer need or want.
It doesn't actually exist, and won't without Amazon; Scott tells us that it is "concept I’m pitching to Amazon publicly. We’re developing the app and Alexa skill for this and have most of the basic features working."
I thought the idea of a public pitch like this was a bit weird, but the more I looked at it, the more I liked it and thought that he is on to something. TreeHugger has never been a fan of conventional recycling, and put it way below our 7 Rs:
- Reduce: Just use less.
- Return: Producers should take back what they sell.
- Reuse: Almost boring, but we throw too much stuff out too soon.
- Repair: Fix and mend things rather than replacing them.
- Refill: In Ontario Canada, 88% of beer bottles are returned to the beer store, washed and refilled; just south of the border in the USA, the number drops to under 5%.
- Rot: Compost what is left over, turning it into valuable nutrients.
- Refuse: Simply refuse to accept this crap from the manufacturers any more
Scott's Amazon After is very similar. Instead of just recycling, which Scott notes can be hard as "most people don’t know if their item can be recycled or not or where to send or bring the item if it can," and like our 7 alternatives to recycling, Scott's software gives you lots of options; you can give it away, donate it, upgrade it, rent it out, lend it, trade it, pawn it, revive it, or when all else fails, recycle it.
It can work really well because, of course, Amazon knows about everything you have purchased, and knows what it is worth.
Everything you bought on Amazon is ranked by worth on Amazon After. It keeps a running total, so you can see how much cash you can access in real time should you decide to liquidate your Amazon bought belongings. See when you purchased each item, what you originally paid and how much time is left on any active warranties with Amazon After.
It can also get really creepy.
IoT enabled devices can report to Amazon After and notify you if they haven’t been used in a while. For example: You may get a pop-up or notification from Amazon After stating that your coffee machine hasn’t been used in 14 months and that it's currently worth $118. You can then opt to have it sold instantly.
Scott notes that "Alexa (Amazon) already knows what you own and everything about your items." And there is no question that this can be useful information that can make your life easier – or even your death. "Try the 'Alexa, sell all my stuff' command, great for when you're moving or sorting out the Amazon bought belongings of someone who passed away.") It can reduce waste and save money.
But I can't help thinking that if Alexa knows that much about you and all your stuff, then you should get out more. That it is too much information. That we should perhaps hit that one-click shopping button a little bit less and not buy so many things that we are in such a hurry to get rid of. But that's just me.
Or is it? Scott is doing a public pitch of this idea, so why don't we tell him what we think?