Late last week, Sonos was called out on Twitter by Devin Wilson for its practices around sustainability. The company drew particular attention for a “Recycle Mode” software feature that, once activated, begins a countdown that eventually renders older Sonos devices basically inoperable. Recycle Mode is part of the trade-up program that Sonos announced back in October, which lets customers get a discount on newer Sonos speakers like the One, Beam, or the Port that Nilay just reviewed.
At first glance, the Recycle Mode seems like a good idea. Except for this one crucial feature of the Sonos App:
Recycle Mode is a state your device enters 21 days after recycling confirmation in the Sonos app. In Recycle Mode, all data is erased and the device is permanently deactivated so you can safely and securely dispose of it. Once a device is in Recycle Mode, it cannot be reactivated.
Wait. What the fuck? This is so fucked. I’m all for reducing, reusing and recycling. But, I prefer to do the reducing and reusing first.
Forcing customers to brick their devices, to force them to recycle is not ideal. In fact, forcing consumers to brick their devices should be illegal. It turns out that recycling isn’t even the most effective way to recover materials. Simply put, shipping our recyclables to China (or elsewhere) for processing isn’t working. As a result, many cities are moving away from recycle programs. In fact, many are forced to recover energy from plastics and trash by burning it in furnaces, and in many cases this is the most green scenario. So, why on Earth is Sonos doing this? To edge up profits in this fierce smart-speaker market of course.