We’ve been hearing a lot about plastic waste this year. There’s a growing social taboo around plastic bags and people are starting to connect personal plastic consumption to impacts on the natural world. Don’t get me wrong, this is great – but what about electronic waste? After all we do live in the digital age of ever-lighter, ever-faster, ever-more numerous and disposable electronic devices. E-waste grew globally by 25% between 2010 and 2014, and is one of the fastest growing waste streams. It is estimated that just shy of 50 million tonnes of e-waste will be produced globally in 2018 and 1m of that will come from the UK*.
This has massive implications for the planet! For anyone who has upgraded their smartphone because the operating system no longer supports the apps they’ve come to rely on, or who has searched fruitlessly for options to repair a broken kitchen appliance – it isn’t hard to believe these stats. And we’re not even that good at recycling e-waste: in the UK we send 24% to landfill which leaches toxins to the soil and water. Clearly we need to do something about this throw-away economy.
Earth Day 2018 takes place on 22nd April, it is a global moment of civic and political action to protect our shared home. The Restart Project is calling for action on e-waste this Earth Day!
Repair for the planet
We definitely need to get better at recycling e-waste but recycling is not the only answer. Firstly, the rare earth metals in some of our devices are hardly recycled at all and extracting them from the earth has a big environmental cost. Secondly, the majority of emissions in the lifecycle of most electronic products occur in manufacture. So it is WAY better to repair and keep using the products we have already made.
The Restart Project is working to break down the systemic barriers to repair. We call for ‘repairability’ in product design and we create spaces for the owners and users of e-stuff to take back control of their products. Lack of skills, knowledge and confidence are big barriers to repair. At Restart’s community repair parties we create learning spaces where people come together to share their knowledge and skills to repair phones, laptops, kettles and the like. Not only does this result in a high number of repairs (over half of all items) but also the owners and users invest time in fixing and learning something about how their devices work – this can transform how we see and value these items making them less disposable.
Earth Day?…How about Earth Week!
This year the Restart Project is going BIG, we figured one day wasn’t enough (there’s a lot of electrical stuff out there that needs fixing) so this year we are calling it Earth Week and we’ve got community repair events taking place in London and beyond:
- Reading, UK – Sunday 15th April, 1-4.30pm
- Brixton, London, UK – Thursday 19th April, 6-9pm
- Hackney, London, UK – Saturday 21st April, 12-3pm
- Kilburn, London, UK – Saturday 21st April, 12-3pm
- Portsmouth, UK – Saturday 21st April, 10.30-1pm
- Leicester, UK – Saturday 21st April, 1-5pm
- Oslo, Norway – Saturday 21st April, 1-4pm
- Florence, Italy – Saturday 21st April, 3-6pm
- Crystal Palace, London, UK – Sunday 22nd April, 1-4pm
- Montréal, Canada – Tuesday 24th April, 10am-2pm
Get ready to fix
If you have skills in electronics we REALLY need your help – these events are likely to be packed with people full of the Earth Day verve to repair. For new fixers in London, we have a volunteer welcome session before the Brixton Restart Party at 5.30pm.
If you are the frustrated owner of a broken appliance (which is most of us, right?) – bring it along to your nearest party. Learn something, connect with others and don’t contribute the 50m tonnes of e-waste we’re likely to create this year.
Lets get fixing!
If you can’t fix for any reason, you can still sign up to the Restart Code and to receive our monthly newsletter.
*Source: UN University, 2015 “The global e-waste monitor” report