Have you ever stopped to think about all of the electronic waste and plastic items that end up in local landfills around the world? It’s actually a pretty frightening problem because it’s causing heavy metals, microplastics and other toxins to end up in our oceans and groundwater. The pollution from today’s waste will continue to have an impact on the planet for generations.
You might think that you’re doing the right thing by dutifully sorting your plastic items into containers for recycling – and maybe you’re even sending your discarded electronics to an e-waste center for recovery. However, recycling of plastics and e-waste has a major problem: In many cases, it’s simply not possible. Recycling and e-waste centers recover what they can, and they typically ship the rest to landfill operators overseas. The fact that foreign landfills aren’t visible to us doesn’t mean they don’t exist – and pollution affects all of us in the end regardless of where it begins.
Most tech products are going to end up in landfills eventually, but there’s a new mindset – the right to repair movement – that can help to slow the proliferation of waste. The idea behind the right to repair is that gadgets shouldn’t be sealed, disposable products that we just throw away when they become obsolete or stop working. Instead, they should be products that people with a bit of time and knowledge can repair, refurbish and resell.
If the right to repair movement sounds worthwhile to you, keep these three things in mind, and you’ll find that your life as a gadget lover will be completely transformed.
Buy Repairable Gadgets and Learn How to Do the Work Yourself
Buying repairable gadgets is one of the most important things that you can do to reduce the amount of plastic and electronic waste that ends up in landfills. To do that, you need to look for gadgets that are held together with screws instead of glue and with components that are socketed rather than soldered. Thanks to the right to repair movement, you can find a repairability score online for just about any gadget that you might consider buying. You can also find detailed instructions for fixing the most common problems that might occur with most gadgets. Using those instructions, you can determine whether repairing a device is something that you can do with a little time and effort. If the most common repairs for a given device are beyond your skill level, you might want to choose something else.
Don’t forget that many “disposable” products are actually fixable if you have the correct knowledge. Have you ever bought a brand-new disposable vape that didn’t work? In most cases, that’s a simple assembly issue, and you can resolve it by popping the cap off of the device and clearing the obstruction with a toothpick. Before you throw a non-functioning gadget away, it’s really worth the time to do a little research and determine whether the problem is fixable.
Find Local Companies to Handle Repairs Beyond Your Ability
As much as we love the right to repair movement, some gadgets are crammed so tightly with components that they’re extremely difficult for consumers to fix on their own without specialized equipment. Smartphones, for instance, represent miniaturization taken to its furthest possible extreme. They’re very integrated, with almost all components soldered into place – and since they’re designed to be water resistant, they’re also glued shut. Unless you’re a truly dedicated gadget lover, performing a procedure like a screen replacement on a smartphone is probably going to be beyond your ability.
When you have a gadget with a problem that you can’t repair yourself, you should seek out a professional with the knowledge and necessary equipment to do the work for you. You’re probably already aware that there are many companies specializing in smartphone repairs – but you can also find companies that can repair notebook computers and even many home appliances if you spend a little time looking. In most cases, the cost of the repair will be considerably less than what you’d pay to replace the product – and if you were thinking about replacing the product anyway, you’ll have a working item that you can sell to help fund the purchase.
Refurbish and Resell Gadgets Instead of Discarding Them
Have you ever seen what previously owned tech items are going for on eBay these days? Thanks to the ongoing semiconductor shortage and other economic factors, people are selling all kinds of gadgets for nearly as much as what they originally paid for them. The gadget market definitely favors the sellers right now, and you can take advantage of that by selling old items that you might otherwise have discarded.
If you’re like many people, there’s a good chance that you have at least one old gadget that’s not working and is taking up space in a drawer. It’s even possible that your closet is home to a pile of old phones with broken screens, laptops with dead batteries and game consoles with non-functioning optical drives. In most cases, it’s possible to replace the broken components and get those items back to working condition. If you don’t put those old gadgets to use, you know they’re going to end up in a landfill before long. Wouldn’t it be better to put those items in the hands of people who can use them and earn a little money for yourself in the process?
If you have a pile of old gadgets and aren’t sure what to do with them, you can work out a game plan by putting each device through a triage process of sorts.
- Find out what the item is currently selling for on eBay. If the item works, securely erase your data if the device has built-in storage and put it up for sale. Thanks to the chip shortage, many types of gadgets are selling for a lot of money – even ones that you might consider obsolete. This is a great time to unload old electronics.
- If the item doesn’t work, find out what it would cost to buy the required parts to fix it. If there’s enough of a difference between the cost of the replacement parts and the expected value of the item after refurbishment to make the effort worthwhile, buy the parts and fix the item.
- If the replacement parts that the item requires are too expensive to be worthwhile, consider selling the item as a “for parts only” listing or parting the item out yourself. With a bit of research, you may find that the replacement parts for the item are actually quite valuable. Components like screens, batteries, motherboards and even smaller items like laptop hinges, keyboards and enclosures can sometimes fetch more money sold separately than they would if they were kept together.
- If you have a working item that isn’t valuable enough to be worth selling on the secondary market – or you just don’t want to go through the trouble of selling and shipping it – drop it off at your local goodwill store. Someone else will find it useful.