To recycle an old radio-cassette player…or not

Forthcoming building work means the Badger’s garage has to be cleared of everything that’s accumulated there over the years. It hasn’t housed a motor vehicle for a long time and, as is the case for many families, it has become a storage area of equipment and old household items that are no longer used but are perceived to be too good to throw away. Last weekend the Badger started the clearance, an activity which proved satisfying and thought provoking in equal measure.

Clearing a garage always leads to unexpected surprises! One for the Badger was finding an early-1990s portable radio-cassette player, complete with its power cable and a couple of tapes. It was hidden, caked in dust, on a shelf where it had lain forgotten for many years. Finding it triggered a surge of memories and an instant urge to see if it still worked. Ignoring pleas to be careful, the Badger wiped the dust off, plugged it in, and turned on the FM radio. It burst into life producing surprisingly good quality sound. The cassette player, which functioned as if it was last used the previous day, played the music tapes without destroying them! This might be ‘old’ technology but fiddling with real knobs, switches, and knowing that it didn’t need the internet or software updates to function, was strangely satisfying.

Starting to clear the garage and finding the radio-cassette player proved to be a refreshing distraction from the woes of our current world and a reminder of three things. Firstly, that we all have unused electrical and electronic items squirrelled away in our homes. Secondly, that entertainment capabilities that predate the internet, social media, smartphones, tablets, and laptops, can still entertain and don’t require you to surrender your personal information. And thirdly, rather than hoard them, our electronics-dependent world needs us to promptly recycle unused, obsolete, gadgets, computers and phones if the technological, environment friendly future that is envisaged is to materialise.  

So far, political, social, environmental, and economic turbulence, and geopolitical belligerence, are the hallmarks of this decade. As the Head of the UK’s GCHQ, recently said in an objective and informative speech about the evolving technological environment in the context of national security and geopolitics, statecraft, technology, security, and economics are ‘entangled and mutually dependent’. It thus seems quite reasonable to think that the specialist metals and minerals recycled from our electrical and electronic equipment are essential to feed military and cyber capabilities like those in use in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. That is, perhaps, a rather obtuse thought, but it might explain why, much to his wife’s annoyance, the Badger has moved the radio-cassette player from the garage to a shelf in his home office and next to a box of old mobile phones. Will these items be ultimately recycled? Hmm, time will tell…


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