It is a word that has resounded over the last couple of decades with more or less increasing fervour and purpose. It has several different meanings: ‘to treat or process… so as to make suitable for reuse’; ‘to alter or adapt for new use without changing the essential form or nature of’; ‘to use again in the original form or with minimal alteration’; ‘to cause to pass through a cycle again’ (Dictionary.com, 2013), and so forth. However, the focus here is on using again, and simply reusing an item with minimal or only necessary alterations, or essentially, purchasing and using items second-hand, or even third-hand.
For generations recycling in this way has been inherent in some way, shape or form, almost a natural part of human behaviour. Parents pass things on to their children via written will, friends and acquaintances give others still-functioning items they no longer have a need for, and many others give them to charities or charity-run shops that seek to re-sell these items and raise revenue for their respective causes. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and maintaining efficiency of consumption in such a way is potentially one of the most quietly beneficial things to enter consumerism for the few who choose to invest in it. Leveraging this inherent quality in humanity could be a positively influential factor in the problems of ever-expanding landfill and climate change, and we can do this via second-hand purchases and thrifting.
Many of us by now would have seen and heard the song Thrift Shop by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and if you haven’t, don’t worry about it:
However, it is perhaps prudent to consider just what thrift shopping (or op shopping) is and can do for us before we write it off because of a rap song. But first, lets ask… why?
What motivation do I have to buy something someone has already used when I could just as easily buy something brand new?
There are a heap of factors that could come into play when you go to purchase something, and most of the time, it does depend on what you are looking for. There are some things you should almost definitely buy brand new – or some things you can only buy brand new – whilst other things are potentially even better second-hand, or can only be found second-hand due to discontinuation. Here, I will present a few of the benefits to you, but it is up to you to think about and decide whether these practical benefits matter to you when going for a purchase.
1. You can save money.
This is perhaps the most obvious benefit of buying second-hand. It’s no secret that almost everything we buy “devalues the minute [we] open the box or walk out the store.” (Lauren Heisk, 2013) This basically dictates that many an item will be that much cheaper when available second-hand. Amongst the most purchased items of all time are cars, books, video games and DVDs (24/7 Wall St., 2012). Though they are hardly the necessities of life, all of these items are likely to incur savings in second-hand purchases. Resources and hubs for selling and purchasing cars second-hand such as CarSales.com.au are testament to the success of second-hand cars, and in fact second-hand vehicle purchases are encouraged by entities such as TIME’s Business & Money team, Australia’s Business Insider. When considering the value of most cars drops by as much as 20% the moment they are purchased and driven (Autos.com) and that insurance costs subsequently also drop despite the product being near-brand new, it becomes clear why it is highly recommended.
Books, video games and DVDs also see such value depreciation while still being very usable and near-new. Brand new books off the shelf might set you back $20 or more, but finding it second-hand could set you back as little as 50c. Similarly, second-hand video games and DVDs could run savings of up to or over 50% the standard retail price.
Citing from personal experience, I myself purchased a hand-knitted woollen jumper from Ireland in near-brand new condition for $8 when something of that quality would ordinarily retail for almost ten times that price. Savings of up to 90% aren’t something to bat an eyelid at, and can be found across the product market.
2. You can find and obtain discontinued items, or parts to repair such items.
Picture this: you’ve accidentally knocked your Nintendo 64 to the floor and now it’s broken. This game console hasn’t been on the market for at least a decade, but you still want to play the games only available on it. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time? Pokemon Stadium? You can probably find an operational unit that someone else doesn’t want, and score it for cheap. You don’t need to move on and get the latest PlayStation or Xbox.
Additionally, the rapid obsolescence or discontinuation of products on the market is perhaps one of the biggest reasons people continue to purchase brand new. When your product breaks down after a couple of years but replacement parts are unavailable because a new model has already taken its place, the most obvious thing to do is simply buy the new product. In some cases simply replacing parts isn’t exactly viable – in considering products like the iPhone which are almost completely sealed, this is admittedly tough – but when it is, why not? The product served you well until its failure – do you really need this brand new iteration of it that has menial upgrades and a bumped-up price point? Simply finding the same product as yours second-hand isn’t so difficult these days with hubs like eBay, and beyond completely replacing your broken down product, it could also open up an avenue to repair your product, especially if it has proprietary parts.
Perhaps one of the more common offenders for breaking down and being replaced are headphones. While they may not be functioning at all, more often than not the issue is simply that the wire has weakened from bending at the jack. The headphones still function, but it’s just the wire that has failed at a point. So why not replace the jack?
Even cars can potentially be easily repaired via researched or informed diagnosis. There are many car junk yards around that let you roll in with tools in hand to scavenge whatever parts you need – for free. This goes back to point number one – you can save a lot of money by repairing or replacing an item yourself, before succumbing to buying its replacement model on the market.
3. Your purchases benefit charitable purposes and the environment.
Although this does apply primarily to op-shopping and not general second-hand purchases, you may or may not have noticed that the majority of thrift or op shops are run by well-known charities or non-profit organisations – for example, The Salvation Army, or The Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MS Shops. Because most op shops get their items via donation, they can take all the profits made from sales and send them straight to charitable causes. It’s a win-win situation, basically. You get a neat item you would struggle to find anywhere else, and simultaneously help out a charity.
In regards to the environment however, general second-hand purchases are, in a small way, beneficial. This applies to op-shopping too. By making these second-hand purchases and recycling in this way, you are essentially keeping the product out of landfill, where it will only contribute to global landfill overfilling. The majority of rubbished products are unable to break down and decompose to return their base materials to the environment. However, through their manufacturing processes they accumulate and contain toxic chemicals that eventually drain into the environment, though usually remaining unnoticed and non-hazardous during the product’s lifetime of use. By reusing the product and keeping it out of landfill, you are helping to reduce waste.
With these three points in mind, how do you feel about op-shopping, and buying second-hand? Admittedly it can be time-consuming – in a sense, it is recycling for the patient – but the rewards can be massive, especially when one needs to be frugal. There are of course some things that you should almost always buy brand new, particularly if it has anything to do with health and safety, but there is a plethora of things that will serve you just as well second-hand as any of their brand new counterparts. It’s up to you to do your research. Living as we do now with the internet at our fingertips – you’re using it now to read this – and generations of experience behind and around us, learning is easier than ever. Hit up the search engines. See what other people are doing with this product you want to find or replace. See if anyone else is selling it online. Check out your local op-shops to see what you can find there.
Seek and you shall find.
– Anthony Martin S3381331
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Dictionary.com, reference for “recycle”. (2013).
Lauren Heisk, of Yahoo!7 Moneyhound. (March 13, 2013). 10 Things You Should Buy Used and Not New.
The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch. (June 29, 2012). The Best-Selling Products of All Time.
Autos.com. (date unknown). Does the value of new cars go down once they leave the lot
Environment Victoria. (date unknown). The problem with landfill.