We talk a lot about unboxing these days, but I don’t think there’s enough talk about unbatterying. So I want to talk about a recent unbatterying experience with an old toothbrush I replaced: the Philips Sonicare Advance.
I bought the Sonicare about three years ago and over time the plastic had yellowed, the battery had faltered a bit, and bits of crusty old toothpaste had filled in all of its plastic seams. The design was clearly first-generation: It takes too many queues from the traditional manual toothbrush; it doesn’t rethink how the toothbrush could be different when electrified.
Anyway, just as I was about to toss this dinosaur into the trash, I looked at the bottom and it had a trash can with a cross through it. “Recycle properly,” it said. Of course. It has NiCd rechargeable batteries, and those shouldn’t be in landfills.
That much I knew, but until this point I hadn’t thought about how to remove the battery from this toothbrush. The case is waterproof and practically seamless. The toothbrush uses inductive charging, and there’s no traditional battery cover.
Little did I know, Philips was about to exact their revenge for my desire to quit their product. From Philips’ web site: how do you remove the battery from a Sonicare toothbrush?
To remove the battery from the Sonicare Advance or Essence, follow these steps:
- Insert a flat-head screwdriver in a slot between the two halves of the handle at the threaded end.
- Twist or pivot the screwdriver to break apart the two halves.
- Remove the batteries from the inside of the handle and recycle.
CAUTION: Exercise caution when using any household tools (such as a screwdriver) to remove the battery.
OK, so what they are saying is: carefully destroy our appliance, in three simple steps. Well, let me show you what actually happened.
I started with step one. I jammed the screwdriver into the slot mentioned in step one, I twisted, and the case cracked a little. But the plastic, which had softened with age, yielded and the slot was now stripped. So I tried the other side, twisting slowly, and the same thing happened. Now I was really fucked. I could tell right away that step two was not going to happen as expected. The top part of the toothbrush was fully gnarled, and I was frustrated. There was nowhere left on this appliance for me to jam and twist. I knew the batteries would be at the bottom, so I was not even close.
So I dug around some more, yanked on it, knocked it against the table, feeling like this was already a waste of time, but determined to save the world or at least my civic pride. After 10 minutes of this, I was fed up and upset that I had purchased this experience. By now I’d gashed my hands in four places trying to jam the flat screwdriver into the side of the cylindrical toothbrush. I needed my own revenge against Philips’ revenge. I took the toothbrush out into the driveway and threw in on the ground as hard as I could. And nothing happened. Not a budge. So I did it again.
Yes! That worked! It shattered into a few pieces. Step two was complete! The toothbrush was fully cleaved!
Now for the easy part, right? The final step. Remove the batteries from the inside of the handle and recycle. Easy. Until about 30 seconds of digging later, when I realized the batteries were very securely glued in! After 15 minutes of work, this is how far I’d gotten.
And I still haven’t removed the glued-in batteries. I’m not sure what my approach will be. The mangled toothbrush is in my inbox as I write this. But I want to ask, rhetorically and with 20/20 hindsight, what kind of idiot has the time or energy to complete these three unbatterying steps when they just want this thing out of their lives? When all they want is to unbox and ogle their new toothbrush? I’m that kind of idiot, I guess, because any sensible former Sonicare owner would’ve thrown it out perfunctorily.
So, 3 years ago when I purchased this toothbrush, not only did I purchase this priceless unbatterying experience that forever turns me off from Philips products, I also purchased Philips implicit commitment to environmental destruction. Because this is not effective recycling. I’m ashamed to have purchased this. This is why I’m going to be electrocuted for eternity by inductive toothbrush chargers in the seventh circle of Hell. But how was I to know?