Reduce, Reuse, REPAIR, Recycle

By Kevin Pink, Customer Service & Marketing Assistant

We’ve all been there. Your phone or MP3 player has stopped working. You can send it to the manufacturer and pay shipping in addition to the cost of the repairs, you can take your chances with a local repair shop, or try to do it yourself, or you can buy a new one. Sure, buying new is expensive, but it would be expensive to repair also, so why not just get a new device, right? Actually, repairs are probably less expensive than you think, and the long-term, large-scale cost of throwing out electronics as opposed to repairing them is staggering. Fortunately, in addition to explaining the benefits of repair, we’ve also got a list of some great resources to help you get started!

Why repair?

-Repair saves money: This is the most obvious reason. Why buy a brandnew computer when a few hours and $50 in new parts can keep your old one humming along? If your product is relatively-new, it may still be under the manufacturer’s warranty, and your repair could be free!

-Repair reduces waste: Before you throw, know where it will go! Modern electronics contain a lot of toxic material, including heavy metals and mercury. If you throw them away, they end up in a landfill and those toxic chemicals can leech into groundwater.

-Repair reduces production: Electronic manufacturing is a massive drain on natural resources. The NRDC details the staggering amount of water (as much as 70 pounds per microchip weighing less than an ounce!) involved, as well as the harmful byproducts of electronics manufacturing. Making your electronics last longer saves energy and natural resources, and has a positive impact on many other problems associated with their production.

Handy_schrott_mobile_phone_scrap-Repair improves lives: Give your phone a second life! Maybe it doesn’t charge, and replacing the battery would solve that problem, but you’ve already got a new phone. If a small fix like replacing the battery could make that phone work again, that phone could go to someone who can’t afford one, and they can enjoy the benefits of technology as you have. Your phone stays intact and you help someone else in the process- it’s a win-win!

-Repair creates jobs: Everyone brings their car to a shop for periodic repairs and maintenance, right? Why do we throw out our electronics when they stop working instead of having them looked at? According to IFixIt, there are 60,000 computer repair businesses in the US employing 175,000 people. These jobs are difficult to outsource to another country as well- why would you ship your computer (to say nothing of, for example, a washing machine or oven) across the world for repair when you can take it downtown?

Now that you know the reasons you should be interested in repairing things, you’re probably asking how you get started. As promised, here are some links to help you begin!

IFixIt  hosts how-to guides for repairing all kinds of electronics and accessories, from smartphones to game consoles and cameras to cars, IFixIt has an illustrated guide to fixing many of the things that can go wrong with electronics. They also sell some replacement parts and tools you may need.

RepairClinic hosts how-to videos and guides for many other appliances and devices (focusing more on lawn care, home appliances, power tools, etc.), and also sells parts and tools.

How Stuff Works is not built as a repair guide hub, but offers easy-to-read explanations of the theory behind, well, how stuff works! This can help you understand the internal components of your devices before you begin to repair them. With some creativity, you can also find some repair instructions!

Youtube hosts a surprising amount of Do It Yourself videos that may also be able to assist, if you prefer your repair guides in motion.

-Consulting a professional repair service is also an option to consider. The fix will cost more than if you did it yourself, but if you’re in over your head or would feel more comfortable, there’s no shame in getting help from the pros.

Recycling

If you’ve already examined every opportunity for repair and it just doesn’t make sense, there is a way to responsibly recycle e-waste. Many times, well-intentioned attempts to recycle e-waste results in a very labor- and energy-intensive process, and often ends with the leftover components deposited in a landfill. Fortunately, there are two standards of independent certification for e-waste recycling to ensure that e-waste is handled properly throughout its end-of-life processing. When choosing an e-waste recycler, be sure they have R2 or e-Stewards certification. Take a look at RecyclingWorksMA’s Electronics Recycling page for more information.

So now that you know why electronics repair is so important, and you’ve got the resources at your fingertips to repair so many things, the only question is what will you be fixing first?

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