ďAs I See It: Is Everything Disposable?"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, June 26, 2009

Is it true that service is a thing of the past? Few items can be serviced these days.

I once owned and operated a service company that provided maintenance on home appliances — it was named, Home Appliance. Service was provided for washers, dryers, refrigerators, ranges, etc. My company served the tri-county area and myself and employees were factory trained for authorized service on many brand appliances.

Each year manufacturers would make changes, even if the ones they had produced were doing a good job and selling well. With each change came a whole new design, and a whole new way to perform service.
The new designs also required new parts which would call for new tools to perform service.

Added features usually came along with the new designs.

During over 20 years, I operated my business, the changes in appliances became very technical and the schooling was extensive to keep up. Soon the special tools and equipment to perform service became a truck full. Techs had to design electrical boards to test and repair timers, to repair motors and valves required additional tools. Ice makers went from flexible cube trays to sophisticated automatic ice cube makers, followed soon by a lever on the door to allow you to fill a glass with water and ice without even opening the refrigerator.

Washing machine development led to various motor speeds, variable water temperatures and a timer that allowed you to select time for soaking, washing, rinsing and spinning.

With the newest style washers, you barely need any water.

Throw-away (because the price was soon so low to purchase one of them) microwaves were introduced for fast cooking. Ranges went to smooth tops with multiple ovens. The smooth top cooking area on the electric ranges made cooking easy. You could set burners at different temperatures. Ovens could be set to self-clean. Gas ranges came with rotisserie features and a gas oven could even have wood chips to enhance flavor.

All household appliances kept drastically changing over a short period of years until there were few more changes that could be made. The service trucks, now loaded with tools, parts and a good tech could arrive at your home and remove parts and repair or replace them all in one trip. This type of service called for better trained techs with very expensive equipment. Once the techs were available, it was time for yet another big change – the elimination of them altogether.

Throw-away parts and appliances became the new way for households to equip their kitchens and laundry rooms. Today’s appliances are usually good for a few years, and then you simply toss them out and go buy a new one. It started with toasters, mixers, coffeepots then graduated to the bigger items.

Not at all unlike many other industries, we have reduced a trade — just about to extinction and created another problem — how to dispose of all the throwaway appliances? All the new-style appliances greatly reduced any need for service techs and sadly added to the mountains of trash, steel and plastic that will take years to degrade in the land fills. The components also add poisons, such as refrigerants and lead to our atmosphere and waterways.

If you are puzzled about how I came to write this column or what my point is, I will tell you. We are now reliving a similar cycle of disposability, this time with office equipment and electronics. Today’s office equipment is the latest in throw-a ways. (How cheap can you buy a printer, and who ever repairs them?) They are piling up in the landfills daily alongside the “buy-it-cheap” computers.

My point — As I see it, how much will the landfills hold?

Capt. Fred Davis is a retired charter captain and nationally published author of boating articles. His “As I See It” appears Fridays in the Tribune and Boat Smart articles are published in each edition of the Thumb Resorter plus on line at www.captainfredsboattips.com.

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