Photo: Fix electronics first

Think of fixing electronics first. (Credit: jfcherry via Flickr)

By Sarah Blay, Public Information Volunteer

Working over 10 years in the software industry has made me familiar with the dreadful "technology graveyard". Piles of e-waste are found in our homes, offices, recycling centres and — most unfortunately — landfills.

To reduce this phenomenon, we need to shift our view of the electronics lifecycle. Even though many North American cities have e-waste recycling programs (for example, in Vancouver), we need to promote fixing over recycling.

Don't get me wrong: Recycling electronics is definitely better than throwing them directly into the landfill. But how recyclable are electronic devices? As described in "The Story of Electronics" (, even those that make it to recycling centres are usually not completely recovered. Many parts — often the toxic bits — end up in the landfill after salvageable parts are removed.

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The next time you consider upgrading your phone or computer, fix it instead. Visit online communities (such as for how-to suggestions, or talk to local repair shops. If fixing your electronics still costs more than replacing them, consider writing to the manufacturer to join the growing group of voices demanding sustainable electronics development.

We need to hold companies financially and environmentally accountable throughout the entire lifecycle of their products, including recycling and disposal. Designing products for environmental sustainability will then become the most economically viable option for both consumer and seller.

May 10, 2013

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1 Comment

May 11, 2013
6:58 AM

This would also be economically beneficial as well. In the past, most of us would take our electronics in for repair before thinking about replacing it. The repair industry employed a great many highly skilled people. Manufacturing industry realized it wasn’t really in their best interest to make things conducive to low cost repairs or upgrading when technology reached the point that replacement was affordable.

The average repair in the past took an hour or two of skilled labor to locate and replace a single 50 cent component or two and the device would be good as new. As things “progressed” it became a cheaper option to just replace an entire circuit board and finally the repair option itself became obsolete.

In terms of economics, it is obvious that if people can’t afford to buy the products produced an industry can’t survive. As technology progresses fewer people are employed and able to buy these products. We can’t all be employed in the non producing finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector so were does that leave us?

Making the economy sustainable goes hand in hand with environmental sustainability. You can’t really separate the two.

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