Sonos Trade-Up Program Bricks Old Speakers, Creating Toxic Landfill Waste

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Photo Credit: Unsplash

The Sonos Trade-Up program launched this year for speaker loyalists. It offers discounts on new products for trading in old speakers. But what happens to the old speakers?

Sonos sells the program to participants saying “sustainability is non-negotiable.” But according to one report from an e-waste recycler, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sonos’ recycle mode intentionally bricks old devices so they cannot be reused.

A Twitter thread brought attention to the matter when several Sonos Play:5 speakers were submitted. Each of the speakers is worth about $250. To be eligible for the Sonos Trade-Up program, users are required to put their devices in ‘recycle mode.’

Sonos Trade-Up
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After 21 days, the device is deactivated and cannot be ‘recycled’ as it renders the device permanently useless.

While many users of the program think they’re helping the environment, the opposite is true. Bricked devices cannot be reused and go directly into a landfill. What’s worse is that some Sonos users manage to activate ‘recycle mode’ accidentally. That renders their device totally unusable after 21 days, and Sonos support says there is no way to stop it once enabled.

The bricked hardware can’t be repaired by removing a logic board, either. The process results in the serial number for the speaker being put on a blacklist on Sonos servers.

“Nothing is stopping these things from working except Sonos says they can’t,” the recycler tweeted.

Sonos has responded to the outrage sparked by the Twitter thread. The official Sonos support account says the Sonos Trade-Up program is designed to help customers that are interested in upgrading to the next generation of Sonos products. The program is intended to offer a 30% discount by removing speakers from used circulation, rather than recycling them.

The definition of recycling is to use a product again or convert it into reusable material. Neither of those things is happening with old Sonos speakers. As you can see, sustainability is no part of that statement.