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Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

General discussions of the systemic, societal and civilisational effects of depletion.

Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby GHung » Tue 20 Sep 2016, 14:16:06

Would you stop throwing things away and get them repaired instead, if it were cheaper to do so?

The Swedish government likes to think its citizens would, and is putting the idea into practice.

The country's Budget for 2017 will cut the VAT rate charged on minor repairs to things like bicycles, shoes and clothes.

Tax refunds will be offered to people who get their white goods repaired, like washing machines and dishwashers.

The VAT rate will be cut from 25% to 12%, and the tax refund will let people reclaim half the labour cost of a repair to white goods and kitchen stoves.

The idea of encouraging people to be less wasteful in their everyday lives has been promoted by the Swedish Green party, which is a partner in the country's ruling minority coalition government, along with the Swedish Social Democrats....

More: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-37419042

Part of the back of my property is a bit of a junkyard. Nothing I enjoy more than repairing and retasking "junk". I often come home from the county "dump" with some item or another in my truck, and it amazes me what people toss 'away'. Some of my solar PV mounts are old satellite dish mounts re-tasked into trackers.

Of course, our consumer-based society has become very much reliant upon planned obsolescence and the 'throw-away' meme to drive more consumption and growth, and if repairing/re-tasking/reusing stuff becomes the norm, a lot of folks will need to find something else to do. Another trap our society has set for itself. Then, again, what is the advantage of building newer, more efficient, things like appliances if they are designed to be disposed of and replaced in a few years?

Would/could the US and other western consumer-based societies ever implement such policies? Are developing countries falling into the same wasteful trap? Is it a moot point as we reach limits to growth?
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby penury » Tue 20 Sep 2016, 14:21:52

You are of course totally correct. The return of workers able to repair items instead of just buy new would doom the great majority of world manufacturing. Can you imagine the furor if the people ever demanded that electonics become reparable rather than throw away? I can not imagine the wars and riots which would occur over that.
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 20 Sep 2016, 15:03:08

GHung wrote:
Would you stop throwing things away and get them repaired instead, if it were cheaper to do so?

The Swedish government likes to think its citizens would, and is putting the idea into practice.

The country's Budget for 2017 will cut the VAT rate charged on minor repairs to things like bicycles, shoes and clothes.

Tax refunds will be offered to people who get their white goods repaired, like washing machines and dishwashers.

The VAT rate will be cut from 25% to 12%, and the tax refund will let people reclaim half the labour cost of a repair to white goods and kitchen stoves.

Although they likely mean well, I don't think this is enough. To me this is an example of impractical government not living in the real world. A big tax credit, say 80% for the entire cost of the repair (labor AND parts) would be more like it, IMO.

A simple example: Swedish income tax rates are high, so lets use 50% as a round-number average.

So for me (a bargain shopper), a brand new washer or dryer, with delivery, installation, and the extra things like new hoses or vents generally required would cost me roughly $400 -- from a major supplier. Being single, that might well run just fine (say, two loads a week on average) for a couple of decades. (My last set went 25ish years).

So for me if the beast is fairly new (say less than 5 years), I'll likely give a service call a try. But if it's fairly old (say 15 years or more) and already has a variety of minor problems/noises (which in my experience, just like cars, such machines accumulate over time) -- it's a financially unwise move to call the repair outfit, $40 tax refund or not. I'm willing to bet, round numbers, my math will apply to a large percentage of consumers.

Now, to repair one of those I have to pay for the parts and the labor. For anything significant, something like $200. So for an hour of labor (minimum for most such service calls), let's call it $80 of the bill. So the tax deduction yields 50% of that, or $40, or a fifth of the repair and a tenth of the cost of a new one. And let's remember -- for 90+% of folks, they don't know what's wrong, only that it won't work. So they can't make an intelligent assessment of what the labor bill will be until they get an estimate (which is an hour service call fee, at best).

It's just not enough of an incentive, if you expect people to get old things repaired for financial reasons.

They might do better by charging a fairly significant fee to dispose of the white goods (helping reflect the burden on the planet). They might do better by appealing to peoples' sense of "duty" and trying to instill some helpful sense (patriotic, earth-friendly, etc) into the population via a P.R. campaign.

Or, if this is important, they need to make the credit large enough to be a real incentive to keep the old machine.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby Outcast_Searcher » Tue 20 Sep 2016, 15:19:20

GHung wrote:
The country's Budget for 2017 will cut the VAT rate charged on minor repairs to things like bicycles, shoes and clothes.

In my world, it's getting hard to find people willing/able to repair such things, at a reasonable price.

I used to have shoes re-soled. Hard to find places to do that now. Oh, and now they'd charge more for the re-sole job than I typically pay for new shoes. For clothes, it's similar. Not many tailor/seamstress places left. Those that are are expensive. Why pay $10 to have two pockets repaired on a pair of jeans when I can get brand new jeans for $15? $12 or $10 if I get them on sale. (Yes, I shop for staples at Walmart). Reducing the tax rate doesn't even come close to being an incentive.

Again, maybe encouraging people to be frugal or earth-friendly will do more.

For example, for a couple of decades I paid $1 to $2 for all my casual shirts without lifting a finger myself. I had a friend who liked to go to garage sales. While he was there, he'd look for shirts in my size in good condition at good prices. He'd buy them for a quarter to $1, and I'd pay him $1 to $2 for them, helping defray his gas cost.

I got good casual shirts at a 90%ish discount.

With jeans, casual shirts, towels etc. I use them until they are literally falling apart. (Now that I quit working, over 95% of my clothes are casual -- as in cheap, simple, and durable).

...

If you could just get people to use stuff for the vast majority of its usable lifetime instead of getting rid of it to have the "latest style/fad", it would go a long way. (Given the nature of people, good luck with that, BTW).

Of course, as was mentioned in a post above, there will be lots of screaming from manufacturers over "lost business and jobs" if this became the norm.
Given the track record of the perma-doomer blogs, I wouldn't bet a fast crash doomer's money on their predictions.
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby aspera » Tue 20 Sep 2016, 16:47:16

I guess we can go around and around on the economics of this. Or whether American's will adopt reuse/repair/retask willingly("willingly" - there's the rub - since that which cannot be sustained will end, eventually such frugality will not be a choice). My take on it is much simpler: I get a psychological blast out of repairing/reusing/retasking things.

My first job was working in a fix-it shop in Park Ridge, New Jersey in the 1960s. I truly believe that working in a fix-it shop will be my last job also.
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby claman » Tue 20 Sep 2016, 17:13:35

The problem with repairing old swedish quality "stuff" is , that after 42 years, I can't get spareparts to my wonderfull "162 Husquarna" chainsaw. My 25 years old Electrolux fridge couldn't be repaired because of its old fashion design. The 25 years old electrolux washing machine can't get new hinges to the lock, so it leaks when it is centrifuging .
My Black and Decker power drill from the 60'es still works!!!
My fathers old english bicycle (1939) could not be repaired because it was made in inches and not the "meter system". My newer bicycles are chinese stuff with unidentifiable standards.

There is no way to repair modern stuff when it has reach a certain age, usually 10-15 years. After that you can throw it.
So good luck with repairing things in Sweden. And it is not worth it either.
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby waterpowerman1 » Tue 20 Sep 2016, 21:18:22

10 years! try owning a 2009 Ford F-150- The heating system on his 2009 truck suddenly failed, blowing only extremely hot air on the passenger side — so hot, no one could sit in the passenger seat. But the biggest problem? It can't be fixed. Rubner's local Ford dealership said the broken part was what's called an HVAC module, and that the part is "...obsolete and not available."
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/f ... -1.3746577
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby Hawkcreek » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 01:13:09

waterpowerman1 wrote:10 years! try owning a 2009 Ford F-150- The heating system on his 2009 truck suddenly failed, blowing only extremely hot air on the passenger side — so hot, no one could sit in the passenger seat. But the biggest problem? It can't be fixed. Rubner's local Ford dealership said the broken part was what's called an HVAC module, and that the part is "...obsolete and not available."
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/f ... -1.3746577

I've got a 1990 Ford F-150, and I can fix everything on it. Part of the problem today is that fewer and fewer people want to learn about how their stuff works. If you can't find a part from a dealer, try a junkyard. If you can't find a part, period, rig up a work-around. The heating system is not very complicated, after all.
If you can't figure it out, go on-line and ask some smart mechanic in a Ford forum.
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby Tanada » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 06:23:35

Why are they charging VAT on repairs in the first place? A repair is not an upgrade, you are not improving a product, just restoring it to functionality.
I should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, write, balance accounts, build a wall, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, pitch manure, program a computer, cook, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby GHung » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 08:03:10

Hawkcreek wrote:
waterpowerman1 wrote:10 years! try owning a 2009 Ford F-150- The heating system on his 2009 truck suddenly failed, blowing only extremely hot air on the passenger side — so hot, no one could sit in the passenger seat. But the biggest problem? It can't be fixed. Rubner's local Ford dealership said the broken part was what's called an HVAC module, and that the part is "...obsolete and not available."
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/f ... -1.3746577

I've got a 1990 Ford F-150, and I can fix everything on it. Part of the problem today is that fewer and fewer people want to learn about how their stuff works. If you can't find a part from a dealer, try a junkyard. If you can't find a part, period, rig up a work-around. The heating system is not very complicated, after all.
If you can't figure it out, go on-line and ask some smart mechanic in a Ford forum.


Right on, Hawk. I've found ways to fix most things I've been told weren't fixable; either "not worth it" or "parts aren't available". I find parts on Ebay, and Youtube is a great resource for "how-to" videos. I've fixed two flat screen TVs that the shop said weren't worth repairing, using Youtube videos. Took capacitors and a couple of hours. Cost was about $10 per. I also fixed my old Homelite 240 Super XL chainsaw. A guy on Youtube showed how to modify a newer part. Works great now.

Tanada wrote:Why are they charging VAT on repairs in the first place? A repair is not an upgrade, you are not improving a product, just restoring it to functionality.


If was broken and you get it working again, you've added value to it's previous condition, eh? Could also be simple semantics. Many US States are charging "sales tax" on labor these days. Doing it yourself avoids all taxes excepting on parts and materials that weren't scrounged from your personal junk yard or traded/bartered for.. Hard to beat sweat equity.
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Re: Can Sweden tackle the throwaway society?

Unread postby Hawkcreek » Wed 21 Sep 2016, 11:42:38

GHung wrote:I find parts on Ebay, and Youtube is a great resource for "how-to" videos. I've fixed two flat screen TVs that the shop said weren't worth repairing, using Youtube videos. Took capacitors and a couple of hours. Cost was about $10 per. I also fixed my old Homelite 240 Super XL chainsaw. A guy on Youtube showed how to modify a newer part. Works great now.

Yep, Youtube is a great thing. It almost gives me hope that we can move past the crappy online social media circle-jerks to a better world. Trading information is a big step towards building a decent society, in my opinion.
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