The forgotten 'R' in the drive to reduce waste

There is increasing awareness and public discourse on reducing waste in Singapore these days.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has a campaign to encourage the reduction of food waste and there are programmes that talk about the issue of e-waste. Environmentalists have been talking about the three Rs (reuse, reduce, recycle).

However, there is one R which has been forgotten: Repair.

Recently, my instant water heater stopped working and so I called the manufacturer to fix what I think is a fairly minor problem - the button that controls the flow of water through the heater was not working.

The company's customer service manager said it would cost $40 for transport, $40 for labour and around $15 to $35 for parts. If I take the low estimate, the total repair cost for this push button would be close to $120.

I found on an online store that I could buy an instant water heater for as little as $90.

It would be natural for most people to just buy a new water heater that, additionally, comes with the benefit of a new warranty.

If we are going to be a less wasteful society, then, both corporations and consumers have a role to play .

Allen Chong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'The forgotten 'R' in the drive to reduce waste'. Print Edition | Subscribe