How to prevent your gadgets from suffocating the planet

How to prevent your gadgets from suffocating the planet

Technologically speaking, COVID-19 The pandemic has made Americans more interconnected than ever. From smart TVs and toys with the Internet to game consoles, the average household today has 25 connected devices – more than double that of 2019.

This amount of technology costs something: a gushing river of electronic waste. Gadgets are the fastest growing category of waste and the most polluting at the same time. Old equipment is prone to leaching of toxic chemicals or ignition. The recycling rate is dismal: less than one-fifth of electronics is usually recycled each year.

“We create e-waste worldwide that weighs up to 100 blue whales a day, and 80% to 81% of it will not be recycled,” said Elizabeth Chamberlain, sustainability director at iFixit, a community of repair enthusiasts.

In the face of this crisis, some large technology companies have taken steps to reduce the environmental impact of their products. After years effectively support for planned obsolescence, Apple, Samsung and Google have customers repair some of their products, extending their life. Critics say it’s not enough, pushing companies to do more and government regulators keeping their feet on fire.

As consumers recognize Earth Day on Friday they can take steps to reduce the impact their technology – and save money on startup. Here’s what environmentalists suggest you get the most out of your facilities.

Keep the device longer

When looking at new equipment, the first question should be whether to buy any at all. If you can avoid buying a new smartphone or laptop, either by repairing an older model or installing several upgrades to get another year of using an existing gadget, do so, experts advise.

“The vast majority of the plant’s carbon footprint comes from the manufacturing process,” Chamberlain said.

According to a recent US PIRG study, Americans buy about 161 million new phones each year. If everyone kept their smartphone for another year instead of upgrading, it would reduce emissions as well as take 636,000 cars off the roads.

One of the main reasons people exchange their phones is longer battery life. Replacing an older phone’s battery isn’t as easy as ever, but it’s still one way to extend the life of your device – and costs much less than buying a new one.

For example, iFixit sells a battery pack for the iPhone 12 for $ 50, and repairing the site is moderately difficult. Independent repairers can also sometimes replace the device’s batteries.

Within the company, we are looking for ways to solve our most difficult recycling problems


When buying a device, consider its lifespan

When you buy a new gadget, find out how easy it is to upgrade or fix it – this can have a big impact on how long you keep it. iFixit classifies smartphones, laptops, and tablets according to how easy they are to repair, and provides crowded-out manuals for many devices.

Note that some of these ratings may change soon as some major technology companies promise to make it easier for people to repair their products. Apple said consumers would be able to buy parts to do ordinary things repairs for the iPhone 12 and 13. Samsung announced a repair program for some Galaxy phones in March, and Google did the same for its Pixel phone this month. All are scheduled to be launched sometime this year.

Beware of devices that use a lot of glue to hold the components together instead of screws or latches – this is a sign that this can be challenging.

Consumers can also look for a modular device that is designed to be easily disassembled and customized. For example, the Laptop Framework is a modular computer, while the Fairphone aims to be a sustainable smartphone.

Beware of cheap TVs

Flat screen TVs are especially problematic because they are often large and not built to last.

“We see so many flat screen TVs that it’s depressing,” said Amanda LaGrange, general manager of Tech Dump, a non-profit organization in Minnesota’s Twin Cities that renovates and recycles electronic waste.

“People often buy them, say, on Black Friday, when some manufacturers, not all, reduce the quality of components. So they can make it cheaper.”

To avoid the cheapest options, LaGrange suggests that consumers check the model number of the TV they want. “See if it’s not sold at any other time of year. And if not, it’s probably cheaper and then you can’t fix the item cheaply.”

Buy refurbished tech

The Tech Dump pair, Tech Discounts, renovates the latest gadget models and sells them at a discount. Many non-profit organizations and online marketplaces do the same.

Consumers should not shy away from the technologies they use because they expect them not to work as well, LaGrange said. Reputable vendors will perform rigorous testing on refurbished items, and many will sell items with return policies and warranties comparable to new gadgets.

“Once someone buys refurbished electronics, people are much more likely to do it again. It’s like buying jeans for the first time,” she said. “People think: Why was I throwing money away?”

Avoid the “pile of denial”

When it’s time to dispose of old electronics, give it a second life by handing it over to a friend or donating it to a recycling or renovation center. Many of these centers offer a financial bonus by having someone write off the value of their gift.

But they should do it quickly, instead of letting old technology accumulate, LaGrange advises. It refers to a “pile of denials” where broken electronics have been gathering in a basement or garage for years. At the time someone donates them, they are often too old to be renovated and can only be thrown away.

“If you brought your iPhone X, which now lies in a drawer, it could easily be refurbished,” she said. “If you wait another six years, it’s not that easy.”

“Repair Cafe” hopes to make treasure from old waste


Promote the “right to fix”

Despite the growing national movement to ensure that consumers can repair their facilities – a problem that is hugely popular and has the support of both parties in Congress – no state has yet codified this right.

That needs to change to reduce e-waste, said Nathan Proctor, head of the Right to Repair campaign at Public Interest Research Group. “When it comes to winning the public gaining argument, we are in a really strong position,” he said. “As for the real repairs, we’re just getting started.”

Nine states are currently considering bills to strengthen consumers’ right to redress. In addition, three bills were introduced in Congress to simplify the rights to repair cars, electronics and tractors.

Pressure from the Biden administration, which enforced consumers’ rights to repairs, is, according to Proctor, the main reason why technology companies have eased their stance against repairs. But making this change permanent requires the introduction of new laws in the books.

“These companies have a job to make money. And our job as citizens of this country is to make sure they do it without harming consumers and harming the planet,” Proctor said.


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