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Dash Button or e-Trash Button?

April 5th, 2016
One press of the Dash button, and your product gets ordered from Amazon.

One press of the Dash button, and your product gets ordered from Amazon.

Amazon, do we really need these little devices?

Amazon, retail’s undisputed King of Laggards on sustainability and environmental efforts, has just added another jewel to its tarnished laggard crown by expanding its Dash button program.  Last week, on the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the Dash button, Amazon announced it was tripling the number of buttons to include a wider range of products and brands.

In case you’ve missed it, a Dash button is an electronic, Wi-Fi connected device that lets you order a specific product from Amazon by just pushing the button. The idea is that you stick the button for that product next to the place where you use that product.  When you see that you are running low, you just press your dash button, which immediately reorders that item from Amazon for you using your Wi-Fi.  You must be an Amazon Prime member to buy the Dash button.  Of course, delivery comes via Amazon Fresh, its home-delivery service.

Ultimate Uni-tasker

Setting aside our bewilderment about why anyone would be willing to glue these fat plastic lozenges bearing corporate logos around the house, we can’t help but notice that these buttons seem more like future e-waste than must-have devices. The buttons each do only one thing – order a very specific product, in a specific size, from a specific retailer. You will have a few options of which Tide product you can configure your Tide button to order, but you can never switch it from being a Tide button to another brand’s button.

So what happens when you decide to use a different brand of product? Or you decide to buy from Costco instead of Amazon?  Or realize you can just write the item on your shopping list? Or use your phone to make a one-click order on Amazon? Or the (non-rechargeable) battery runs out?  What will consumers do with the now useless Tide button?

A teardown of the button by Hackaday reveals the electronics inside. Photo: Hackaday.io

A teardown of the button by Hackaday reveals the electronics inside. Photo: Hackaday.io

Our guess is that most people will just toss it into the trash, unaware that there is a AAA battery inside, plus a circuit board and electronics – things that should be recycled, not trashed.

They should be recycled because they likely contain some of the toxic chemicals commonly found in electronics, which shouldn’t end up in the landfill. Plus they contain metals and plastics which should be reused, not trashed, as they are not renewable resources.

Amazon Won’t Recycle Dash Buttons

Yet there is no information on Amazon’s website about returning a Dash button. I contacted Amazon’s customer service department, which told me they do not accept them back for recycling or reuse, but that I would be free to recycle one on my own.  I doubt that a recycler will even want this, since the cost to take it apart to remove the battery probably exceeds the commodity value of the parts.  So the Dash button will become a trash button anyway.

Amazon, seriously, you need to take these things back to reuse and recycle them. Or even better, focus on other strategies for customer loyalty that don’t add to the e-waste pile.