As an engineer, possibly the single thing that rubs me the wrong way the most is how disposable our society has become in the purchase of consumable goods. In our attempt to save a buck, catered to us by such giants as Walmart, we have forced manufacturing into cutting every last cent out of what we buy so that instead of lasting lifetimes, these things last a small finite amount of time before it ends up in a landfill and we buy a replacement. Two examples have recently have recently affected me though I see much more than that on a regular basis.
Case One: After filling up my little plastic gas can with lawn mowing gas for the season, I put on the lid and tightened it up only to have it crack. Now the straight plastic spout that I use to get gas into my lawnmower with it ending all over the driveway is functionally useless. I went to the local hardware stores to find a replacement cap only to learn two things. First, my two-inch opening in the gas can is no longer the standard and all I can find are caps for 1-1/2 inch openings. Two, they have done away with the simple straw like hollow tube to go with these gizmos with safety locks to prevent accidental spillage that are just full of small plastic moving parts. That hollow straw tube with the friction fit cap that I currently have works perfectly and I've never had the occasion to store my gas can upside down where leaks became an issue. I have no doubt that if I could buy one of those new fangled gas can lids that it would last all of a year or two before breaking. But what gets my dander up even further is that this gas can of mine, made entirely from plastic, is all of maybe ten years old. My father has gas cans that he inherited from his father that are entirely out of metal and though dented and scraped up, are still working some 60 years after they were built! I want to buy such a gas can but can't find one anywhere. I'm just going to have to hit up the farm auctions and see if I can pick one up somewhere sometime in the future.
Case Two: I have probably destroyed a good half dozen ice cream scoops in the last half dozen years. I first had a solid metal one but the plating started peeling off of it and lord knows what was in the inner metal part that was now unprotected. I then had a variety of those scoops with mechanisms to clean the ice cream out from inside the round scoop. They always ended up with the moving mechanism failing in various ways. Finally I found one with a more robust version of the moving mechanism only to have the molded plastic handle that appeared glued onto the metal tang break off. Meanwhile, my mom still uses the same flat iron solid metal scoop with bolted on wooden handle that she probably inherited from her mother and I don't think I could break it with a ten pound sledge hammer, an anvil and a thermos full of some caffeinated drink.
I mentioned this on another blog not too long ago but if someone could come up with a store that only makes/retails stuff that is made to last generations instead of years, even if it costs three times the price, you would have me as a loyal customer for my lifetime. Plastic would be absolutely outlawed.