Damien on… The Disposable Society
When WW2 started, car production in the UK ceased, to allow the factories to make bombs, tanks and planes, etc. In any case, people did not NEED cars during the war – petrol was as scarce as unicorns’ tears.
But when the argument was settled, production slowly restarted. At first Ford began production on the Ford Popular – a PRE-WAR design, that the afore-mentioned scuffle had postponed. However, it didn’t look SO odd, since there were thousands of pre-war cars that now saw the light of day for the first time in YEARS – having been put in hibernation, during the hostilities.
Of course, in America, not being in a total war situation (no-one dropped bombs on THEM) auto factories continued regardless. And despite things being tight – they continued development.
But in 1960s Britain, the streets were still littered with these pre-war relics, many of which had technology from the dark ages – cable brakes and the like.
Thus the Ministry Of Transport came up with a thing called “Ten Year Tested” – which was a VOLUNTARY scheme, to show your car was SAFE.
But it did not take long for the MOT to upgrade the scheme to MANDATORY – and shorten the period to THREE years. And THAT was the cause of the problem.
As is usual with these things, they started with good intentions – then went STUPID. At first, the MOT inspection covered brakes, suspension, tyres, steering and so on. But by the late Seventies, it was encompassing catalytic converters, windscreens – in fact just about EVERYTHING.
Cars had to practically be in SHOWROOM condition to get through the tests.
Which meant if you had a ten year old car that was worth three grand – but it needed three grand’s worth of repairs to get it through the test – it was WORTHLESS. Despite being perfectly safe and in reasonable condition.
And the situation Stateside is little better. Recently MILLIONS of reasonably good cars got TRASHED, during the “Cash For Clunkers” campaign.
But here in the Orient – things are different. I bought a ’94 Mitsu Galant Ultima in 2002 for four grand. Today, it is still worth three – despite now being SEVENTEEN YEARS OLD.
Of course, at ten years of age, it virtually fell APART – being made in Japan, where cars can only GET a test certificate if they are less than ten years old (one assumes Rolls’s and “classics” are exempt).
However, I kept getting it fixed and today, it has not given me trouble for several years.
When I escaped Blighty, I HAD intended bringing my UK car with me (in the container – it can be done) but I discovered a Thai bureaucrat had changed the rules, now making the prospect impractical.
So, since I needed wheels right up until I reached Heathrow, I sold my car for a reasonable sum – and bought a legal “banger” for seventy-five quid, which I fully intended to LEAVE in the airport car-park, with the key, documents and a note on the driver seat saying, “Free car – take it – it’s YOURS!” (In the event, a friend took it from me, having took the Tube out to the airport, to meet me).
But the thing is – the “banger” was only worth seventy five quid because it would have needed a grand’s worth of work doing to get it through its next MOT. In Thailand, the work would only have cost a couple of hundred – and then it would have been worth at least TWO GRAND!
(It was a fairly clean Vauxhall Cavalier that only needed a new non-return valve on the fuel line – a plate welding under the driver floor-pan – a new hazard flasher switch – a new radio aerial – a new battery carrier – and – but this one would have COST – a new thrust bearing for the clutch – the old one was NOISY, when the clutch was engaged).
And THAT’S the problem. While nobody wants their roads to be filled with cars that are DEATH-TRAPS – the ridiculously fierce MOT means the West constantly THROWS AWAY cars that have PLENTY of practical use left in them.
Of course, motor manufacturers would claim their cars are 99% “recyclable” – but they speak from their arseholes. Steel is plentiful and the other bits not worth saving. Plus they conveniently forget about the resources used in BUILDING the things. A big factory where they are assembled – and a host of smaller ones where the bits are made.
So thanks to that blasted MOT, every year, THOUSANDS of perfectly good cars are JUNKED. The West has become a “throwaway” society.
And it is the same with EVERYTHING.
Once upon a time, consumer electrical goods were built by hand – component by component – and cost a fortune. So there was a repair shop on every street corner. But now, they are all boxes full of printed circuit boards and are given away with Corn Flakes.
But once their extended warranties (when stores found themselves forced, by governments, to SERVICE their products for a year – they decided they might as well make some MONEY from their service departments) have run out, TVs, fridges et al find themselves on the scrap-heap, when often only a minor repair job could have got them on their feet once more.
Before I walked away from it, I WAS a service engineer. But by the early Nineties, I was already becoming an endangered species. Now repair costs are now so high, people just throw stuff away when ANYTHING goes wrong with it.
And thanks to automation, the NEW COST of those items has never been LOWER.
BUT… this World has only so many resources – and if we do not begin to REVERSE these destructive practises, the goods we make will start to get more EXPENSIVE again – because of the rising costs of THE RESOURCES.
You heard it here first…