To tackle the growing e-waste challenge we need to start thinking differently about technology
Across the globe up to 50 million tonnes of electronics are expected to be thrown out or abandoned this year. That’s a staggering number – millions upon millions of laptops, mobile phones and other gadgets simply consigned to the scrapheap, with all their precious materials and valuable engineering left to degrade.
The frustrating thing is, many of these devices are repairable. And yet, one of the major reasons why the world’s e-waste scrap heap is growing so rapidly is that few people are repairing their technology when it breaks.
It’s down to a number of factors: the upgrade system of ownership that encourages users to hand in their devices regularly for a new model, no questions asked; the scourge of planned obsolescence that renders older technology useless in the face of new software; the simple lack of consumer knowledge about how easy it can be to replace a cracked screen, switch a battery or rewire a circuit.
All this waste has a major environmental impact. Demand for new devices means more mining for precious materials such as coltan, which is primarily recovered from conflict-stricken regions like the Congo. This often takes place in unsafe conditions using child labour. The disposal of old technology is also at the root of major pollution problems at dumpsites like Agbogbloshie in Ghana, where workers are exposed to carcinogenic chemicals as they attempt to sort through e-waste shipped from the West. That’s without mentioning the significant amount of energy that goes into designing, manufacturing and shipping technology around the world, only for it to be discarded a year or two later.
At iMend.com, we are keen to promote the benefits of repair and reuse. Every month we repair around 7,000 – 8,000 phones and tablets for businesses and consumers across the country. For every phone we return to a customer back in working order, we are chipping away at the e-waste mountain and extending the lifespan of valuable equipment. We keep technology in full working order for years – we regularly repair the iPhone 4 for example, which came out in 2010.
It’s not just the environmental benefits that make repairing the smart move for both businesses and consumer tech users. The average cost of a mobile phone repair at iMend is just £60 – brand new devices cost at least double that, and regularly can cost ten times more. That can be a major saving for an individual or a business to enjoy.
When asked about repairing technology, consumers regularly cite distrust of commercial repair operators as a barrier. Customer trust is something we take very seriously at iMend, which is why all our technicians are background and DBS checked, and our central repair centre is data protected, so your personal information is kept secure. We are also the only company in the UK that has a nationwide call-out, on-site iPhone repair service, so you can have peace of mind that we can come out to you and repair your technology in front of you wherever you are in the UK.
As a company, we are seeing more and more people embracing a repair and reuse philosophy, for both the environmental and financial benefits. SIM-only contracts are making it easier than ever to sweat assets for their full life, while the novelty of incremental upgrades is starting to wear thin.
It’s a journey we must continue on if we are to have a hope of tackling the world’s e-waste mountain. Put simply, we must value the devices we already own and not treat them as disposable items. This isn’t an onerous task – it’s cheaper, greener and more rewarding than spending money hand over fist on new gadgets. We talk all the time about smart technology, but it’s clear where the smart money should go.
Learn more about iMend here.