The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

March 4, 2008 wants your dead gadget stories!

Remember this picture of my plastic waste from Week 35? Remember my rant about the HP monitor that couldn’t be fixed and how HP makes products that have to be replaced rather than repaired? I ranted here. I ranted on the Californians Against Waste site. I ranted in emails to HP. And then I found out about The Electronics Take Back Coalition (

The Electronics Take Back Coalition is a national coalition of environmental and consumer groups who promote green design and responsible recycling in the consumer electronics industry. They have several strategies, including:

    • Promoting legislation to require manufacturers to take back and recycle our old electronics
    • Using direct public pressure on manufacturers to offer responsible recycling programs to their customers, and to adopt green design principles.
    • Working with institutional purchasers to amplify the demand for green products.
    • Promoting recyclers who adhere to responsible electronics recycling practices and exposing the impacts of low-road recycling, including the exporting of e-waste to poor countries around the world.
  • They are currently campaigning to get TV companies ( to offer free TV recycling, as many TVs will become obsolete when HD becomes the standard.

All this is great. It’s a good step. But I didn’t want to recycle my monitor. I wanted to be able to fix it and keep using it. So I wrote to the Coalition to ask if they are addressing the issue of planned obsolescence of electronics and the inability to repair them rather than recycling, and I got a reponse back from Barbara Kyle, the National Coordinator:

We have focused on the recycling end of the e-waste problem. But we want to do more on promoting reuse, and green design concepts that allow us to hang on to our electronic products longer, and to upgrade them to keep up with advances in technology. So far, the industry has focused on energy as the primary criteria for “green design.” While we don’t disagree that energy use by the product is important, the energy used to create new products is even more significant, and could be reduced if our products simply lasted longer.

We want dead gadget stories!

We would love to receive stories just like the one you documented on your blog, showing clearly how products simply can’t be fixed or upgraded, because of clear choices made by the product designers.

Please send your stories to and include the following information:

  1. Make and model
  2. Year they bought it. Is it under warranty?
  3. Why it’s dead. (Doesn’t turn on, won’t reboot, can’t upgrade it to run certain software, etc)
  4. Steps taken to try to fix it, or cost to fix it. (Here’s where your story was incredibly compelling. You didn’t just say your monitor died — you found someone who tried to fix it, identified the part needed, made the call, and then was rebuffed. So asking your readers to fill in this part would be great. Making the call to get an estimate on what it would cost to fix it (vs replace it) is good. But actually getting the company to say they WON’T sell you a replacement part gets to the heart of the issue. So that’s an extra step, but if you could ask them to document this, it will help us tell this story. Feel free to include whom they spoke with at the companies, so there can be no question of misunderstanding.)
  5. Picture of the dead gadget. (Be sure we can see the manufacturer name or logo!) For our dead gadget gallery (soon to come).

This request includes broken TELEVISIONS, not just computer-type devices.

Barbara also added that if there are any serious reuse and upgrade geeks out here, she’d love to talk to them in more detail about how they could do a more thorough “study” of this issue, trends they see with different companies, etc.

So if you’ve suffered similar frustrations to what I have, please, please, please take a minute to send your story to and help persuade companies to take responsbility for the products they release into the world.

OH! And if you’re a blogger, please post this request on your blog! Let’s make it viral!

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morning cielos
14 years ago

If only all the electric non working stuff could be shipped to south america, 90% of it would be fixed, no doubt about it. My parents have had the same tv for 15years and has been fixed a hundred!, same thing with phones, walkmans (!), VCRs, and computers etc. There are lots of local repair shops that not only use the same broken parts but, when in need, also some brain and imagination. And things work AGAIN.

14 years ago

no problem Beth
I know how time consuming that can be so if you’ve already done a tag, I understand!
thanks for stopping by!

Healthy Tips For A Healthy Lifestyle
14 years ago

Hey Beth :)
Really cool blog you got here, I read the FAQ page..
Keep up the good work :)

14 years ago

Hay we like u putting pitchers uv us on site with monitor n stuff. But we see u have pitcher uv AlGore 2. We likes AlGore. Can u get pitcher uv us w/ AlGore?

O we getting used to chikenpumkinrice stuf 2. Itz OK. We apreshiatz u making it not just opening can.

14 years ago

Just stopping to say you have a very cool blog you have going here. I just found it today, but I will be sure to keep reading.

As for monitors, there a few places in NYC that will take your old monitor/computer parts and re-use the cases and properly dispose of the rest. I guess that’s the best we can do at this point because sometimes repair costs more than a practical amount.

Also I appreciate that you are reducing your plastic waste to the “bare” necessities. :)

news of france
14 years ago


14 years ago

i was fortunate enough to have a father who knows about stuff like this. usually ‘set’ computers are most likely sucky because you couldn’t really repair them without having to bring it to an ‘authorized dealer’, so i was told that it’s best to know the specs you want and buy parts on retail. i know this doesn’t really help much…but ‘yah…was advised to leave a comment so i did:D.

14 years ago

I stumbled upon your blog and wanted to tell you thank you! I just moved to California (San Leandro… we’re neighbors!) last fall and I’ve been learning more about recycling. I grew up in Idaho where the only recycling options were paper and aluminum cans, which we had to haul across town to the recycling center. Needless to say, not many of us did it because of the inconvenience. I love living here where recycled goods are picked up from our house! That still amazes me.

I appreciate your efforts in educating us about reducing our plastic consumption.

14 years ago

I enjoyed readingsome of the things on your page.I think recycling plastic is a good idea.One thing I would like to see in Detroit is trash containers that make it easier to divide up your garbage into plastics,metals,and papers. Now that would be a cool idea.

14 years ago

This is a really important topic! Whenn I think about all of the tvs which will go into landfills next year because of that digital switchover it just makes me sick. Recycling for art purposes is a great idea, its such a shame that our culture is such a throwaway society.

14 years ago

I think this is a wonderful site, though I think you’ve neglected to go back in time and give basic options to people who live in areas that aren’t quite as environmentaly concious as California, say…North Carolina, (yes I live there). The school I go to doesn’t even have recycling bins for paper!!! Using fabric, re-usable bags for shopping, riding bicycles, walking…These fundamental parts of being eco-friendly are daily being ignored by people in my part of the country, help!

Jackie Star
14 years ago

I live in Australia, we have a local hard rubbish day each year, where the local council collects hard rubbish (fridges, washing machines, furniture etc) what most people do is go around collecting this rubbish for themselves, people collect all the metal and take it to be recycled at the metal depot (you are compensated per kg), however i have found many things that are useful still – my electric can opener was free and still works, it must be about 30 years old.

plastic bottles, milk cartons etc are collected and recycled each fortnight by the council for free, however if you take them to the recycle depot you are paid 5c per carton and soft-drink (soda) can and 20c per plastic bottle, also $1
per 12 glass beer bottles.

I think our government has the right idea, if you want the average lazy so and so to recycle them make it easy or compensate them.

One think that gets be here is that the only 100% recycled toilet paper you can buy is rapped in plastic.

I really don’t know what they do with all the plastic, i have never really thought that much about it. Thanks for opening my eyes to the problem. I think you have converted me to thinking more about plastic waste.

14 years ago

Beth – just thought of this (although you probably thought of it before) – did you check Freecycle/Craigslist for another dead monitor of the same model that could swap out the part you need to fix yours? One less in the landfill…

Blue Collar Crunch
14 years ago

Ooh! I will have to tell my husband about this; he fixes computers for a living and is forever running into “proprietary” versions of what should be standard parts. Often the manufacturer won’t sell him just the part, like what happened with your monitor. I’m sure he’ll have some good stories.

Most new computers that they sell anymore, they try to get you to sign on for their “Complete Care” super-extended (expensive) warranty – the sort where you can drop it off of a high-rise and they’ll replace it for free.

At least this puts the onus of dealing with the e-waste back on the manufacturer, but if you don’t have that warranty, you’re kind of screwed. (And apparently they don’t like to cover monitors!)

Even if you do have the warranty, it’s all so cloak-and-dagger – the language is always “repair or replace at our option” – I have to wonder how often they just go with ‘replace’ because it’s cheaper for the company?

14 years ago

OOO…. I have a GREAT one! The story isn’t finished yet, so I will wait to send it in…

My brother-in-law gave us a digital video camera for our wedding. It was a Samsung SC-D103. A $300 camera.

We used it 3 or 4 times over the first year, and then kind of forgot about it. We pulled it out a month ago for my husband to use for his grad degree (a video camera is required), and it wouldn’t turn on.

Searched the internet, and this is a COMMMON problem that they won’t fix for free… they want $150 to fix it. (at least they will actually fix it). But, it’s a flaw in design… SURELY they should be fixing it for FREE.

The video camera is currently sitting at our local TV/Audio repair shop waiting on a quote. I decided I would MUCH rather give that $150 or $200 to a local repair person instead of a company that won’t take responsibility for it!

It KILLS me that I could go and buy a similar quality (or the same one, as it’s old) camera for that $200… in fact I had to convince my husband that fixing it really was the best course of action.

Here’s hoping the quote comes back under $200. Fingers crossed. I don’t know WHAT we will decide if it is more.

Maria~ If after you look through your electronics you don’t need them.. you can post those electronics on a free sharing site like craigslist or freecycle (there are others, too) and mention they are broken… there may be others willing to take it for free and fix it up.

Marla Kunselman
14 years ago

I have a box of broken electronics in the basement just waiting for that one “dump” day where you pay to get rid of them – also a couple of TVs – all this stuff I have been lugging from place to place if I move becuase it is so hard to get rid of – and you can’t put them out to recycle. I had never actually thought to see if some of this stuff could be repaired because I always felt it cheaper and easier to replace it just as the other poster said. I will take another look before I dump “it” into my ever expanding box of electronic junk from now on. Also – I wonder about donating the old electronics – some people recycle and use it as art. The jewelry I make is recycled from the ocean – Sea Glass – so that may be and option. Thanks!

14 years ago

Our VCR just broke and I was thinking that we needed to get another one because that is what we always do when our things break. I was thinking about the recycle options for the machine, but until I read this post it didn’t occur to me to get it repaired. I can’t remember the last time we actually repaired a broken appliance. Our mentality has always been to simply throw it “away” and replace it. Even if it is expensive to repair it is worth it to not have to throw it away. I am going to look into doing that. Thanks for the post.