These Are 5 of the Most Wasteful Electronics in Existence

Not everything needs a battery

Photo: Tom Fisk via Pexels

1. Digital pregnancy tests

This deceptively simple product feeds off of the belief that electronics must, by default, be more accurate than dye on a stick. Manufacturers created a device that can tell you if you’re pregnant on an LCD screen instead of reading lines on a paper test. Yet when a curious engineer deconstructed the digital test to find out how it worked, he discovered two batteries, three LED lights, and one paper pregnancy test. The $12 hunk of plastic and metal was reading the same 80-cent paper pregnancy strip that we’ve been using for decades.

2. Disposable phone chargers

In 2021, every device seems to have an evil alter-ego with the word “disposable” in front of it. Hence disposable phone chargers, which give your smartphone a temporary, often only partial boost when it runs out of power and you have nowhere to plug it in.

3. Five-dollar appliances

When I bought my first vacuum cleaner this year, it was a huge deal. I dutifully clean out the filter and brush roll every month. I take care of it because I know that it will last me for years. I wonder, however, how long a $5 vacuum would last me?

4. Gadgets with nonremovable batteries

Most of us would never think of tossing out our old TV remotes or graphing calculators just because the batteries died — but in 2021, we often do this with high-end consumer electronics.

5. Disposable electric toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes are another device that now have the dreaded “disposable” modifier in front. Most standard electric toothbrushes have replaceable or rechargeable batteries. Yet this disposable electric toothbrush actually boasts that its battery “requires no replacing,” as if the manufacturer is doing us a favor by creating a device that will rapidly become junk. On the packaging, it advises the consumer to “simply change out your Pulsar brush for a new one” when the battery dies. To translate, when your impossible-to-remove-or-replace battery runs out of power, toss the whole toothbrush into your trash can. It’s bad enough that all the plastic goes into the landfill or incinerator but a battery too?

Why junk matters

It may seem convenient to be able to throw out your electric toothbrush when it stops working and buy a new one or to hand Apple your old iPhone to recycle instead of changing its battery. But it comes at a cost.

Right to Repair Campaign Associate with U.S. PIRG