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Sonos 'recycle mode' is slammed by e-waste disposal expert who claims 'reuse is always better'


A software setting that permanently deactivates Sonos smart speakers so that their parts can be recycled has drawn criticism from an e-waste employee, who claims that ‘reuse is always better’.

Once activated, the ‘recycle mode’ setting initiates a countdown, before erasing all personal data from the device and blacklisting the device from the Sonos servers.

It is intended for use in the California-based firm’s ‘Trade Up’ program, which encourages customers to take their old devices to an e-waste centre or return them to Sonos for recycling in exchange for a credit against future purchases.

Writing on Twitter, however, e-waste handler Devin Wilson has slated the programme as one that is ‘environmentally unfriendly’ and ‘harms e-waste recyclers’.

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The 'recycle mode' feature that renders Sonos smart speakers non-functional has drawn criticism from an e-waste employee who claims that 'reuse is always better'

The ‘recycle mode’ feature that renders Sonos smart speakers non-functional has drawn criticism from an e-waste employee who claims that ‘reuse is always better’

WHICH SONOS SPEAKERS CAN BE ‘TRADED UP’? 

The following devices are eligible for the upgrade program:

Play:5 (Gen. 1) (Released 2009)

Connect (Released 2007)

Connect:Amp (Released 2004)

According to the Sonos website, the ‘Trade Up’ programme is ‘the simple, sustainable way to upgrade your Sonos system.’

‘When you recycle an eligible Sonos product, you are choosing to permanently deactivate it. The deactivation happens 21 days after you choose to recycle the Sonos product. The 21-day countdown cannot be cancelled,’ it continues. 

As part of the ‘Trade Up’ programme, users receive a 30 per cent discount against any new Sonos product. 

‘We feel it’s the right decision to make recycling a condition of this offer,’ the luxury speaker manufacturer says.

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Using ‘a local certified e-recycling facility is the most environmentally friendly means of disposal […] It’s more eco-friendly than shipping it to Sonos,’ they add.

At a recycling centre, the speakers can be broken down into their constituent parts and the materials recycled — a better alternative for the environment, certainly, than sending the devices to landfill.

Mr Wilson, however, feels that it would be better if the traded-in speakers could be re-furbished and re-sold — a process which would be less energy-intensive, but also enable e-waste centres to turn a greater profit on such devices.

Recycling used electronics is rarely a completely effective process — as there will typically be some component parts that cannot be reused or recycled.

‘Salvaging working and valuable electronics for refurbishment and reuse is the most environmentally friendly way to do things, and the reason we can still exist as a business,’ Mr Wilson told Gizmodo.

‘I decided to spread word about this independently of my employer because [Sonos’] hypocrisy and uniquely bad actions with this program make me angry.’

Mr Wilson — who works for Renew Computers in San Rafael, California — added that he sees himself ‘as an environmentally conscious person who hates to see working electronics get scrapped.’

Writing on Twitter, e-waste handler Devin Wilson has slated the Trade Up programme as one that is 'environmentally unfriendly' and 'harms e-waste recyclers'

Writing on Twitter, e-waste handler Devin Wilson has slated the Trade Up programme as one that is ‘environmentally unfriendly’ and ‘harms e-waste recyclers’

Mr Wilson took to Twitter after a customer at his e-waste centre dropped off five Sonos Play:5 speakers.

‘They’re worth $250 each, used, and these are in good condition. They could easily be reused,’ he wrote.

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‘Unfortunately, the person who recycled them put them in recycle mode.’

‘This is the the most environmentally unfriendly abuse and waste of perfectly hardware I’ve seen in five years working at a recycler.’

‘We could have sold these, and ensured they were reused, as we do with all the working electronics we’re able. Now we have to scrap them.’

‘This is the only time I’ve seen a company explicitly brick its own hardware in the name of “sustainability” and “encouraging recycling.’ 

'Salvaging working and valuable electronics for refurbishment and reuse is the most environmentally friendly way to do things,' Mr Wilson told Gizmodo

‘Salvaging working and valuable electronics for refurbishment and reuse is the most environmentally friendly way to do things,’ Mr Wilson told Gizmodo

‘We take our responsibility to the environment seriously and are committed to continuously improving our sustainability practices,” a Sonos spokesperson told The Verge.

‘The reality is that these older products lack the processing power and memory to support modern Sonos experiences. Over time, technology will progress in ways these products are not able to accommodate.

‘The Trade Up program is an affordable path for these owners to upgrade.

‘We felt that the most responsible action was not to reintroduce [the old products] to new customers , who may not have the context of them as 10+ year old products, and that also may not be able to deliver the Sonos experience they expected.’



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