The Toaster Designed not to be Replaced
- RMIT University
- RMIT Industrial Design (honours)
This isn’t just any toaster; this toaster is designed to never be replaced. Cheap electronic products like toasters, electric kettles, irons etc. have become practically disposable with product lifespans constantly getting shorter and shorter. Planned obsolescence and cheap, inhumane labour are to blame. This completely repairable toaster puts a mirror to our consumption habits, making viewers walk away wondering “why can’t all products be like this?”.
The fact is, all products could be like this toaster. With growing awareness of the destructive nature of electronic product design, everyday consumers are beginning to demand products like this toaster. While it is probably unreasonable to think that this project could actually incite a movement, there is no doubting that it is a part of one. We have to move towards a more repairable future. This toaster is a small step in bringing this future closer.
The features of this repairable toaster are not just a framework for other toasters. This way of designing can be applied to many simple electronic devices. Creating one repairable item is a small step. However this project argues that it is an important one. When tested to gauge audience perception, this project’s research found that the toaster encourages viewers to question their current habits pertaining to electronic products. This questioning is so essential to inciting cultural change.
E-waste is a systematic problem that begins much earlier than the moment we decide to dispose of something. This toaster focuses on the culture of e-waste and disposal. We throw things away for a few key reasons, most notably: 1) the product breaks, 2) the design becomes dated. When cheap products break, it’s cheaper to buy a new one than repair the old one, and when we decide something is ugly, it is so easy to just replace it. This cycle of buy, break, replace is getting shorter and shorter everyday. But products that use incredible amounts of resources should not be replaceable. That’s why this toaster is designed not to be replaced and other electronic products should be too.
Cheap electronic products are designed to be impossible to open up and repair. This toaster flips this convention on its head, with a removable case, no proprietary components, interchangeable parts, and a heavy cast iron base evocative of long-lasting kitchen products. The toaster however is not a high end product. inexpensive components and materials have been used for the most part with a few key exceptions, to make sure sustainability isn’t just something for the 1%. Everything from the outer case, to the heating element, interface and circuit board have been totally re-designed within a new framework of ‘accessible repairability’.
The process of attempting to get this prototype to a manufacturable level is currently being developed as a 4 part podcast series called \’We’re All Toast\’ by writer Kate Enright and designer Phoebe Richardson. More information about the podcast, plus specific features and detailed images of the toaster design can be found at www.werealltoast.com .