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Unbroken - repair is essential

Mark Phillips | UK, Germany, Ghana, Cuba, Sweden, & others

The anatomy of a mobile phone. Weighing around 160 grams, smart phones are made up of around 30 elements, including copper, gold and silver for wiring, and lithium and cobalt in the battery. The touch screen and display use indium, boron and rhodium. The circuits and chip use silicon, bismuth, gallium and gold. The camera and microphone use rare earths including neodymium, dyprosium and praesodymium. The vibration motors use tungsten and micro capacitors use tantalum.

A complex mixture that has to be extracted from the earth and processed to make the materials, before being then made into components, and sub-assemblies that are assembled into your phone, packaged, transported across the globe and then sold.

unbroken - solutions

We now create nearly 55 million tonnes of electronic waste or e-waste each year - our fastest growing waste stream. Even bigger is the impact of the materials extraction to make all these electronic devices. When we no longer want them or break them the resulting waste creates more problems. More than 80% of electronics waste is not recycled properly; we do not even know where most of it ends up. Recycling only recovers a fraction of the resources consumed and can potentially create even more toxic waste.

One solution is to make our products last longer, through repair, reuse, and refurbishment. This requires systemic change - in policy, our rights, capabilities and culture but has the potential to make a substantial positive impact and help establish a circular economy.

Sustainability is a complex global issue, and much of the current focus is on either the ‘visible’, the plastic waste in our oceans or, on the ‘greenhouse gases’ from energy use and CO2 emissions. But the use of our earth’s limited resources to make things, and their impact on sustainability, are equally significant.

Consumption is killing the planet.The “Extraction of materials is a chief culprit in climate change and biodiversity loss—a challenge that will only worsen unless the world urgently undertakes a systemic reform of resource use,” (UN Environment climate change specialist Niklas Hagelberg).

We now create nearly 55 million tonnes of electronic waste or e-waste each year, and that waste is growing.It is our fastest growing waste stream.But we have a limited appreciation of the environmental impact it creates. It is two-fold, the e-waste itself (one of our most toxic wastes) and the upstream impact, in the mining and processes used to make all those devices that we eventually throw away.

We all contribute to this problem. Just one typical mobile phone, weighing around 160g, can require up to 30,000g (30kg) of the earth to be mined (about 200x times the weight of the phone). Add to that, 75% of the energy needed by that phone is used in manufacturing it, before you even open the box and charge it.It is a similar story for TVs, computers, games consoles, speakers and other electronic devices.When we no longer want them or break them the resulting waste creates more problems.More than 80% of electronics waste is not recycled properly; we do not even know where most of it ends up. Recycling only recovers a fraction of the resources consumed and can potentially create even more toxic waste.

Similar problems are created with almost everything we buy that use materials extracted from the earth: cars, toys, refrigerators, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, irons, hairdryers, lamps; an endless list, gobbling up our limited resources. Amazingly this was never even discussed at COP26 in Glasgow; a massive problem completely ignored.

One solution is to make our products last longer, through repair, reuse, and refurbishment.Then look to recycle materials only once the other options are exhausted. That has the potential to make a substantial positive impact and help establish a circular economy. But requires systemic change.

Recent changes in the law in several countries, have made a start, but we still do not have a meaningful right to repair.In the US, USPIRG works to reduce repair restrictions. Progress is steadily being made with over half the states having active bills to support a right to repair.In March 2021,the first ever repair lawsfor household appliances came into force in Europe. But these are also limited in application and restrict who has access to spares and repair manuals and it does not address some of the systemic issues and embedded barriers. In the UK the situation is worse, with more limited rights only introduced in July 2021.

Changing the laws is only part of the systemic solution required. To create a viable repair ecosystem and economy we will need access to repair manuals, tools and spares, develop training and skills, create facilities to support communities, and the engagement of local authorities, community groups, commercial repairers, and consumers

unbroken.solutions, explores the impact and, more importantly, systemic solutions; ways to overcome the barriers and identifies ideas and resources, we can all use or access, or can demand rights to.We have the power to solve this.

unbroken.solutions has taken on an increasingly more collaborative approach, working with repairers, repair groups, advocates, engaging wider stakeholders, and by undertaking joint activities and events.

Mark A Phillips 

More information and useful resources on repair can be found at:

 - Repair guides, tools and spares - iFixit:https://www.ifixit.com

Organising community repair events, Repair Cafes: https://repaircafe.org/

and the Restart Project:https://therestartproject.org/

The Restart Project also provide a repair directory for commercial repairers in London: [https://therestartproject.org/repairdirectory/]

R2REurope - the Right to Repair campaign was launched in September 2019, and quickly grew to over 40 organisations, active around the cause of repair from more than 16 European countries.The campaign members represent community repair groups, environmental activists, social economy actors, self-repair advocates and any citizen who would like to obtain their right to repair: https://repair.eu/

RREUSE is an international non-profit network supporting the development of social enterprises in the circular economy through innovative policies and

Mark A Phillips

e: mark.a.philips@btinternet.com

m: +44(0)7792134007

w: www.markaphillips.co.uk

 

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