Wait, Don’t Toss That Microwave Oven!

In the United Kingdom alone, around 1 million tons of e-waste is generated per year, much of it in the form of microwave ovens in need of simple repairs. That’s what a doctoral student at the University of Manchester discovered over the course of a study recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Azadeh Dindarian found that 54 percent of the microwave ovens that hit U.K. landfills each year appear to have been chucked for purely cosmetic reasons, or for minor electrical faults. Of those, the study found, 85 percent could be safely repaired, often with as simple a fix as a new fuse or plug. Dindarian’s team also found that some simple changes in the way microwaves are designed could prevent some of the most common causes of premature microwave discard — simple changes with the power to prevent thousands of tons of appliances from hitting the skids each year.

microwave ovens landfills uk

image via Shutterstock

Professor Andrew Gibson, one of Dindarian’s supervisors on the study, said, in a statement: “For the first time, a study is underway to look at the quality of disposed electrical goods. The results we have so far obtained are surprising in that the majority of disposed microwave ovens are either fully functional or easily repaired. The hard, practical fault-finding data is what makes this project unique.”

Azadeh, who was shortlisted to present her research at the House of Commons, believes product reuse is essential to reduce current levels of waste and create a more sustainable economy. She and her fellow researchers now plan to extend the study to include washing machines, fridges and other devices, with the goal of revealing the full scale of appliance waste in the U.K.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.