Sonos Will End Device-Bricking ‘Recycle Mode’


Sonos found itself facing a public relations disaster last month when sustainability advocates drew attention to the company’s ill-planned “Trade Up” program. In order to get discounts on new audio equipment, Sonos had been forcing customers to brick their old speakers, which is extremely wasteful. Sonos pledged to reevaluate the way it promotes upgrades and has now announced it will no longer brick old hardware

The controversy kicked off because of Sonos’ use of a feature it misleadingly called “recycle mode.” Customers who wanted to use the Trade Up program had to place their aging hardware into this mode, which sharted a 21-day countdown. At the end of that, the speakerSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce
would stop working entirely, and there was no way to stop the countdown once it had started. There was no changing your mind, and you were out of luck if you accidentally activated recycle mode. 

Aside from being strangely draconian, recycle mode was a sustainability nightmare. The best way to recycle an old piece of hardware is to give it to someone who will keep using it. You could also refurbish and sell it to avoid adding waste to a landfill. Only after exhausting those options would a recycler disassemble a device and attempt to collect useful materials, but that was the only option with Sonos’ bricked speakers. 

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Sonos says it’s ending the recycle mode requirement, but it’s keeping the Trade Up program alive. Customers can still get the 30 percent discount on new hardware by verifying they own an older speaker via the serial number. After getting the credit for that speaker, the owner can do whatever they want with it; sell it, give it away, recycle it, or send it to Sonos. You just won’t be able to get another discount for that piece of hardware. It’s a much more generous offer overall, and it won’t automatically mean more garbage in landfills. 

It’s not all good news, though. Sonos says there’s still no way to stop the self destruct countdown if someone has already activated recycle mode. However, anyone in that situation is urged to contact the company. Sonos is also still planning to stop updating older legacy speakers with new features in May of this year. Now that you don’t have to brick them for the Trade Up program, more Sonos devotees will probably look at upgrading to newer devices with the Trade Up program.

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