Kitchen appliances that wear out so fast they often have to be replaced are a good example of the built-in obsolescence at the heart of our modern consumer culture. Here, the environmentalist’s motto ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ is particularly important. Many of the gadgets in the average kitchen (such as juicers, blenders and deep fat fryers) go unused, but for those that are truly necessary it is crucial they are disposed of carefully.
Our throwaway culture
At least six million kitchen appliances are discarded each year. As most of them are thrown into dustbins, very few are recycled as they could be. Friends of the Earth would like to see much higher recycling or re-use targets for waste electrical and electronic equipment. The organisation argues in favour of making products last longer, designing them for easy repair or for easy replacement of worn-out components, as well as for easy recycling for parts that cannot be re-used. FoE says that this should be the responsibility of the manufacturers, so that they carry the cost of recycling or disposal of their products.
Even if a piece of equipment seems to have reached the end of its life, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer usable. Secondhand shops often take old equipment and there are schemes around the UK to recover discarded electrical equipment. Wastewatch recommends that old appliances are not dumped in the bin but taken to a civic amenity site where they can be added to other scrap for recycling. Information is available from the local authority, which will have a recycling officer, or from Wastewatch (www.wastewatch.org.uk).
Various materials, such as stainless steel, iron and plastics, are used in most kitchen appliances. All the associated ills of mining and manufacturing come in to play – toxic waste, pollution, energy wastage and greenhouse gas emissions. Of course these things will continue to exist anyway, but a good way to minimise their impact on a personal level is to avoid buying new products, by choosing second-hand or reconditioned items instead.
Weighing up how often an item will be used can be useful in deciding how necessary it is. If it is unlikely to be used on a weekly, or even monthly, basis, is it really needed? It also helps to think about ease of use, as there may be another way to do a job without resorting to overcomplicated gadgets that are often difficult to clean.
For example, a blender does many of the same jobs as a food processor but uses a smaller quantity of energy. A standard grill can easily be used instead of a toaster, and electric can openers have mostly been made redundant by the addition of ring-pulls to cans.
The energy efficiency of electrical appliances varies from model to model. As there is no eco-labelling scheme for small kitchen appliances, ethical shoppers have to rely on the energy usage being displayed on the product’s packaging. A kettle draws up to 3KW, and when millions are turned on at about the same time (such as during television ad-breaks) the increase in demand is massive. Compared to electricity, gas is 30 per cent more energy efficient. This is why kettles used on gas cookers can be a better option than electric ones.
Hand-operated kitchen appliances, naturally enough, are the most energyefficient kinds you can buy, not least the whisks, forks and knives that are absolutely essential for cooking!
You can save money on kitchen appliances by using www.gooshing.co.uk. This service searches over 300 shops to find the cheapest price on your chosen brand – and gives ethical ratings on the manufacturers.
Ethical Comparison – Appliances Rankings Detailed Table
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We have created ethical comparison rankings for the following brands, based on the activities of the company group (see above tables): Moulinex, Rowenta, Swan, Tefal, Morphy Richards, Prima, Breville, Bush, De’Longhi, Dualit, Goodmans, Hinari, Kenwood, Pifco, Russell Hobbs, Salton, Philips, Braun
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