Countering throwaway culture in consumer electronics

The need to reduce waste and its impact on the planet has never been more topical on a global scale, yet throwaway culture is ingrained across society. Linn is - as it always has been - leading the longevity charge in consumer electronics.

Any of you who heard the recent announcement from Sonos that in order to qualify for a 30% discount on a new speaker, customers had to push a button to enter ‘Recycle Mode’ and permanently disable their current product, would likely have been as shocked as I was. In a misguided bid to maximise profits, Sonos wants to prevent the continued use or re-use of its products – a deliberate effort to prematurely end the life of a functioning consumer product.

Even more astonishingly, if you explore the sound-system company’s “recycling scheme” for these bricked products via its website, you are simply directed to your nearest waste disposal centre! Although these places will dispose of your Sonos alongside other electronic waste, it’s going into landfill when it would otherwise be a perfectly usable product. In a world where the culture is finally aligning around waste reduction, Sonos is actually incentivising people to generate more waste.

The true cost of throwaway culture

Sonos is not the first consumer tech company to face a backlash over such practices. In 2018, both Apple and Samsung were fined for deliberately slowing down older phone models when new software was loaded, thereby encouraging the purchase of new phones.

Discarded electronic goods are now the world’s fastest growing waste problem – double the rate of plastic. Sustainability not-for-profit organisation WRAP recently reported that the industry could prevent one million tonnes of waste and save 14 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by using resources more effectively.

Built to last

At Linn, our goal is to extend the lifetime of our products, not limit it. If you purchased a Sondek LP12 record player any time from 1973, it can be fully upgraded to 2020 specification with minimal waste. When a module of the Sondek is upgraded, the old module can often be reused in another Sondek.

Owners of any of our family of music streamers have been able to benefit from numerous software and hardware upgrades – from support for new music formats and control apps to the latest Katalyst DAC architecture, supplied as a module so that the whole product doesn’t need to be replaced to benefit from this performance enhancement.

We recently introduced a software update that upgrades the performance of a Linn network music player, called Space Optimisation. It uses acoustic modelling and digital signal processing to counter the distorting effects of your listening room’s unique shape and acoustic response. And we rolled this out – for free – to every Linn music streamer owner, going all the way back to 2007.

Reducing all forms of waste

Waste, in all its forms, is Linn’s enemy. Our music systems are precision-engineered to minimise loss of audio resolution, protecting and reproducing the signal as accurately as possible along its journey from microphone to ear, and eliminating anything that ultimately detracts from your listening experience.

Our products are designed to be manufactured as efficiently as possible, to minimise waste during the process, and any waste generated is recycled and re-used wherever possible. For example, we make our product chassis from aluminium, which is 100% recyclable, so any waste is returned and recycled to be used in the next products. We also recycle other materials used in the process, e.g. solder and solder paste, electronic components and circuit board off-cuts to name a few.

In our state-of-the-art factory we’ve lowered energy consumption every year of the past decade. Solar panels (yes, even in Glasgow), a heat recovery system and LED lighting have all played their part. Our investment into the latest energy-efficient manufacturing equipment, including vapour phase ovens and direct drive milling machines, has also contributed to this ongoing reduction.

Products for life

And so at Linn, we believe that we all have a role to play in minimising waste. The music systems you surround yourself with – from streamers to speakers – should fill you with pleasure and remain useful to you for as long as possible. We believe in quality and longevity, not planned obsolescence – values we have upheld for the past five decades. We design and manufacture our products and systems to be modular, upgradeable and expandable. That means the best sound possible not just today, but for the lifetime of the product. At Linn, we seek to reduce waste through our factory’s processes and our product designs. Unlike Sonos, we do all we can to counter the throwaway culture in consumer electronics.

Find out more about Linn’s culture and ethos here