10:10 – buy good quality stuff

Dear Breville,

I have just signed up to 10:10, the climate change campaign to reduce my emissions by one tenth. Item 6 of their advice (at http://www.1010uk.org/people#how_can_we) is ‘Buy Good Stuff’. It reads:

“Less stuff made = less emissions = less climate damage. So buy high-quality things that last, repair broken stuff rather than chucking, buy & sell second-hand and borrow your neighbour’s mower.”

In recent years since we have been able to afford it, my partner and I have made purchases with this in mind. Approximately two years ago we paid an above-average amount for one of your kettles – a stainless steel model I can’t find on your website so I reckon it must have been discontinued.

Yesterday, the handle fell off. How the screw which attached it to the kettle came loose in the first place is a mystery.

I set about trying to re-attach the handle but the screw was housed internally in the handle in such a way that I couldn’t even see the head, much less reach it.

It seems that my otherwise-working kettle is unmendable.

I would be interested in your response.

Best wishes,

Update: the Good Shopping Guide is helpful for making these kinds of purchases – but what do you know, it doesn’t include robustness, durability, longevity etc in its ethical rating.

Update 2: I also subscribe to Ethical Consumer mag and can use their ethiscores. Like the Good Shopping Guide, they fall down on 10:10 point number 6. What we need is some kind of amalgamation of Which, Ethical Consumer and Good Shopping.

Update 3: The Guardian spotted this post. Currently no reply from Breville. Meanwhile I’m using a stove-top kettle (oddball but very stylish gift from a friend) which takes 10 minutes to boil on a gas hob. I have only evidence-free hunches about what to do for the best in this small but symbolic matter.

Update 4: Sep 14th and still no reply from Breville. My father-in-sin says we have to drill through the handle and replace the old screw with a new one. If the thread’s gone (in the screwed-into part) we may need to create a new thread. Power tools make my imagination whirr but sometimes you just have to get on with it.

Update 5: I heard from Breville. My response:

Thanks for this response. It was slightly tangential to my question though.

I thought it was clear that my emphasis was on the environmental consequences of appliances which break after such a short time, and in ways which should be repairable easily, quickly and locally, and I’m not satisfied with your response in this respect. Basically, I’d argue that the handle should be the very last part of a kettle to break, and if through some freak circumstance it does, it should be straightforward for me to fix myself. And while you have given a lot of consideration to my finances, with mention of “warranty”, “uneconomical”, “cost” and “incur postage”, for which I am grateful, you haven’t mentioned the environment impact of this kind of breakage (which I think I explained adequately) at all.

My hunch is that the environmentally responsible thing to do is for companies to design repairable appliances, and sell parts and instructions so that owners can either repair them themselves or can take them to a hardware store which offers this kind of paid service. Sending the kettle back to Oldham on the off-chance, and incurring costs to boot, is unsatisfactory on all kinds of levels, not least use of fuel and packaging.

I’m going to drill through the handle, take out the old screw and attempt to replace it with a longer new one. If that doesn’t work, I’ll get back to you.

I realise that all this implies a big rethink for companies like Breville, in terms of warranties and business models. That’s what I’m calling for. If companies like Breville can commit to meeting their consumers at least half way in responding to our shared waste, materials and emissions crises, we may come out the other side relatively unscathed. And this issue of my kettle handle, while relatively piddling, is I think representative of Breville’s challenge.

Update 6 27 Sep: The kettle is mended. I had shown it to everybody who crossed my threshold. Eventually my cousin, a lateral thinker, suggested pushing from the other side, rather than prising, the (for want of a better term) ‘plug’ which fitted over the place where the screw goes. This worked. Out came the plug, we could get to the screw-head, reattach the handle (the threads were fine) and put the plug back in. But it took a long time, many people’s consideration, and our determination not to throw the kettle away or replace it. And we can’t get to the screw now to make sure the handle doesn’t drop off while we’re pouring boiling water. Unsatisfactory.

5 thoughts on “10:10 – buy good quality stuff

  1. Yes, but then the blender seems to have gone missing in the move, along with a lovely red casserole. We now have 3 metal blendy bits and no blender. Grr.

    I had an old nasty-looking brown “upright” kettle. Each time I got a new one, I kept the brown one. It came out of retirement to replace broken newcomers at least twice.

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