Tracking devices reveal fate of ‘faulty’ small appliances

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Tracking devices reveal fate of ‘faulty’ small appliances


Tracking devices planted in “faulty” small appliances have revealed where they go when returned to stores.

Many appliances such as mixers, blenders and toasters are sold with no repair advice and no spare parts available, making a longer lifespan challenging.

The situation lead Consumer NZ to investigate what happens to nearly new, but faulty appliances.

After buying benchtop mixers from Kmart, The Warehouse, Briscoes and Farmers stores in Wellington, its testers created easily-fixed “faults” by removing a power wire from the control board.

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Tracking devices were placed in each of the mixers, which were then returned to the store of purchase.

At Kmart and The Warehouse, sales assistants offered $80 refunds for the mixers without opening the boxes. At Kmart, staff said “they just throw faulty stuff in the bin.”

At Briscoes, the sales assistant said a Breville representative would look at the mixer and “not to worry, it won’t just get thrown in the landfill.”

The $740 Kenwood mixer purchased from Farmers was unboxed and turned on before a replacement Kenwood was provided.

Many small appliances are sold with no repair advice and no spare parts available.

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Many small appliances are sold with no repair advice and no spare parts available.

And then the waiting game began.

It took approximately four months for all the mixers to find their final resting place. The warehouse product made a swift trip, with a stop or two at Seaview, before being deposited at Silverstream landfill.

The Kmart mixer from Petone took a similar trip, stopping at an art school in Lower Hutt. Hopes it was being repurposed into an appliance waste sculpture were dashed when the tracker signal was lost next to bins at the school and the mixer was presumed crushed in the rubbish truck on the way to Silverstream landfill.

To be sure, a second mixer was purchased from Kmart Porirua and after being returned, was tracked straight to the Spicer landfill.

The Breville mixer from Briscoes spent a month moving around the store, before heading to Seaview. But instead of following the previous mixers to Silverstream, it was couriered to Auckland appliance reseller, Appliance Outlet.

The Kenwood also spends four weeks moving around the Farmers store before being picked up by a courier.

After an overnight journey to Auckland, it arrived at a courier depot in Manukau and later moved to a logistics warehouse near Auckland Airport. It was later confirmed the Kenwood mixer had been recycled.

Consumer NZ head of testing Paul Smith​ said manufacturers didn’t want to deal with unwanted and unbroken appliances.

Three out of five mixers tracked by Consumer NZ ended up in landfills.

Cameron Burnell/Stuff

Three out of five mixers tracked by Consumer NZ ended up in landfills.

“Incorporating repairability into the sale of their product doesn’t make economic sense, so they have two options – throw them into landfill or pay someone else to deal with it. We don’t think this is acceptable,” he said.

“We now live in a world where nearly new appliances, and all the embedded resources contained in them and used to produce them can be thrown straight into a hole in the ground at the first sign of fault.”

Smith said New Zealand was the only country in the OECD without a national e-waste scheme and its e-waste per capita rates was one of the highest in the world.

“Something needs to change,” he said.

The warehouse, which markets itself as “sustainable and affordable” and “here for good”, said the incident in which its mixer went to landfill was being investigated.

“[We are] reviewing our processes as in this case, we haven’t got it right as this item may have been able to be repaired or recycled.”

Breville said faulty products were repaired and refurbished wherever possible, while Kmart and Kenwood did not respond to Consumer NZ’s attempts to make contact.

Consumer NZ is planning to launch a “right to repair” campaign, pushing for manufacturers to provide spare parts and repair instructions, as well as durability labeling at the point of sale.





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2022-06-13 18:00:00

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