Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Right to Repair is good – my E-waste poem in the style of Dr Seuss (Mar21)

I wrote a slightly different version of this poem in 2012 when I was campaigning to change what happens to e-waste. Sadly, it’s still just as relevant today.

However there is some good news. The EU are bringing in ‘Right to Repair’ legislation, which means that it should be much easier to get spare parts and to use them to prolong the life of our electrical goods.

I hope that the printer manufacturers are first in line to be hauled over the coals. I think that they’re one of the worst culprits. I’ve had printers with very little wrong with them that I’ve had to replace. And, sorting out paper jams is still a nightmare with my Epson printer.

Now for the poem. I’ve always been a fan of Dr. Seuss’s books. Green Eggs and Ham, Hortense the Elephant and The Sneetches are just some of his gems. The most environmental one, of course, is The Lorax – “I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please’.

The poem below is inspired by Dr. Seuss’s style. I’m sure that if he’d known about e-waste he would have made it one of his themes. Right to repair is a start and should help reduce designed obsolescence. But, we need to set up systems for re-use, repair and recycling in the UK and all over the globe. Do you know where your e-waste is going? Does your company?

At the far end of the world where nobody knows
The sweet smell of burning gets right up your nose
It comes from wires, TVs, computers and other such stuff
That’s been thrown away like pieces of fluff.

They end up in piles – and that’s what’s burning
We don’t give a damn – and we’re not learning
That this is madness.  It doesn’t make sense.
How could our society be so dense? 

The children are there, wading through the junk
Picking out metals, plastics and all sorts of gunk.

It doesn’t take long if you look around
To see that this stuff shouldn’t be thrown in the ground

There are toasters, drills, freezers and kettles
Made from plastics, toxics and all sorts of metals
Much of what’s there has hardly been used
Our wasteful society stands accused

More phones, more printers, more electronic games
Apple, Sony, Kenwood and HP are just some of the names
Many companies are simply encouraging us to buy more and more
Without any thought of the troubles in store

It’s not just where we put all the waste
Of the things we’ve used – often in haste.
There’s also the impacts of digging up the stuff
When will we say that it’s enough

We slash down the forests, fowl up the rivers
Often to get just a few tiny slivers.

Whether it’s copper, or gold, or tin
The burning and poisoning is just a sin.

Clear everything away, move on the tribes
Wealthier lifestyles are used as bribes –
Scars on the landscape and piles of rubble
Are the other side of the IT bubble. 

Many of these processes are energy-guzzling.
Some wasteful practices can be quite puzzling
Wires and chargers, for example, can be part of the pack
But if you don’t want them you can’t take them back!

If there’s one thing wrong, the product won’t be used
Even if it’s as simple as a wire being fused.
You’ll be told that it’s too expensive to mend
Better to buy a new one – and keep up to trend.

We want more of the same – only a little bit better
In fact, what we want is to be a trendsetter
We buy lots of things that we don’t really need
Fuelled by a system that promotes greed.

But it really doesn’t have to be this way
Not if we stand up and have our say
E-waste legislation has been completely bonkers
It must have been devised by a team of plonkers

I bet you’ve got wires and chargers in drawers
As a result of a system that is full of flaws
This is something that must be changed
If we’re to live in a world that is not deranged.

Challenge companies to sort things out
Let’s join together to give us some clout

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  1. In March last year, Elana Elson started to sew face masks to be sold for charity. She had a couple of outlets, North Perrott Farm Shop being one of them. We sold hundreds on her behalf. When schools locked down, her father decided to use his IT experience to collect old computers for recycling. He asked us to be a collection point and using social media, we soon had a steady stream of old laptops, tablets, smart phones and even a few towers arriving on our doorstep. By January, he had distributed over 32 cleaned and working computers to local schools to be given to families who had more children home schooling than computers. Eventually recieving a letter from the head teacher to say that all families in at Haselbury, Merriott and St.Barts schools needs had been fulfilled. This initiative was not unique and many IT repair shops ran similar schemes around the country. From now on, if anyone finds themselves with a redundant computer, peripheral & especially chargers, contact your local repair shop and ask if they have a charitable need.

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