Tired, grumpy and uncommunicative after a long and dreary day, my boyfriend Toby and I sat in my flat and decided to watch something on his laptop. Flashing in the corner of the screen, an icon told us the battery was low and needed to be connected to a charger.
Reluctantly we tag teamed to get the charger attached from our seats: Toby passing the wire toward me, and I fulfilling my role to plug it into a power socket. A simple enough routine, which felt like the world’s most energy sucking task when all you want to do is watch crap TV.
However, our efforts were met with disappointing resistance, when the battery icon continued to flash its warning. The charger was not working. We tested out the socket. Fine. We checked the connection. Fine. The laptop charger was caput. Yet another electrical item that’s met its demise and is ready to go to the landfill.
But hey ho, luckily we had a spare and our evening viewing could continue, uninterrupted.
But one faint memory imparted on us from our parents began to surface. What did our elders do when an electrical item seemed to break? Was there some step we were missing; some magical knack we had somehow forgotten to use which breathed new life into an item?
The answer was: we hadn’t checked the fuse.
A simple, tiny little thing which controlled whether a plug was working or not, and as a result determined if said plugged item was kept or discarded. The difference between fix or throw.
A little embarrassed with our hastiness, a quick switch of the fuse and the charger was back in action. But my mind evidently drifted to other things we might have gotten rid of simply because the fuse had gone in the plug. Chargers, kettles, TVs….could I remember checking the fuse on them before they went to the skip?
Every year its estimated that 2 million tonnes of WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling) items are discarded by householders and companies in the UK. Were the fuses checked on all of these if the cause of death wasn’t obvious? I hope so, but sadly I doubt it.
That evening we had short tempters and little patience to fiddle with electrical equipment, but I’m glad we did. Otherwise we would never have realised that the short fuse about to ruin our evenings wasn’t the bad tempers in our heads, but the potentially environmentally wasteful plugs held in our hands.