Cut down on E-Waste--Make Hardware Repairable

Greg Galitzine : Green Blog
Greg Galitzine
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Cut down on E-Waste--Make Hardware Repairable

A well-timed (day after Christmas) article in Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper pointed out the obvious--that today's gadgets are meant to be disposable--but also at one part of the solution to curb the consequences i.e. e-waste  that is already in play, which are growing numbers of repair shops.

The paper cited Jesse Hirsh, a Toronto-based technology analyst, who is amazed at what he calls a "boom" in the past couple of years of iPhone/iPod fix-it shops. They allow people to get eight, 10, 12, 18 more months out of products that are really designed to last a year, maybe two at tops."

Even so fixing last year's iPod goes against the grain of consumer technology, which has morphed the masses into a disposable gadget society. 

"There is a tragedy to that," Hirsh told the newspaper. "It makes it more difficult, and sometimes more expensive ... to fix it. So clearly there is interest there [to fix older technology] but at the same time a lot of this stuff is junk - and is designed that way."

To illustrate the Canadian newspaper's point I have a Lexmark X2650 printer that was priced so low it cost less to buy the unit than to purchase the replacement cartridges--which are practically impossible to find, and the original ones can't be refilled. The printer now sits waiting for me to chuck it out on the street; I have since then purchased an HP J6480 that uses refillable cartridges (a Canadian company, based in Courtenay, British Columbia called Island Inkjet runs a great chain of refill kiosks, with over 230 locations across North America).

The other part of the solution is for manufacturers to get it together to create common standards on commodity components that do not add user/market-distinguishing features to make hardware repairable and parts interchangeable. These can include AC and car power supplies and cellphone plugs and receptables to avoid the search for the (expletive deleted) cord, plus keyboards, screens, rollers, and cartridges.

The upshot is making items repairable also provides domestic i.e. onshore/local skilled employment. At the same time it increases affordability of technology, enabling more people to benefit from these tools.

How about it? Let's be part of the solution rather than a contributing cause to the problem...

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