The data on our impact at Restart Parties is generated by a database we call the “Fixometer”. Answers below containing numbers date from mid 2018.
How is data collected?
Where does the data come from?
We host free community electronics repair events called “Restart Parties” where people join us to fix their broken electronics. We host 24 Restart Parties ourselves each year*, but other groups in London, the UK and beyond host their own separate events. Globally, since 2012, together we have logged over 560 Restart Parties.
At events, Restart Party Hosts log the status of devices, and afterwards feed into our online database.
As more and more Restart Party Hosts contribute data, we will begin to get a more global picture of the impact of community electronics repair.
* Data from The Restart Project headquarters’ first year (2012-2013) is estimated based on sampling of participants and weights of devices, not actual registered devices.
Who comes to Restart Parties?
People who are frustrated with our throwaway culture, people who cannot afford to buy new, people who are curious to get inside their black-box gadgets. In our experience, an equal number of men and women bring gadgets for repair, and participants come from all walks of life.
What kind of items are fixed?
A wide range of items from laptops through to toasters.
For recording the data we split these into 34 categories. These categories fit in four clusters: computers and home office, electronic gadgets, home entertainment, kitchen and household items.
Who fixes the broken electronics?
We call our volunteer repairers “Restarters”. They are talented amateurs, with various backgrounds and experience. Owners get involved in the repair, helping troubleshoot, disassemble and sometimes fix their own electronics.
How can I get involved?
You can participate in a Restart Party in your own community, or host your own. You can also become a member of The Restart Project, to help others increase our activity and spread our message.
How are the calculations made?
How are the figures calculated?
To calculate the carbon footprint of electronics we needed to categorise the devices, then for each category to find data on the average weight, data on how repaired devices displace new devices (which is where the environmental benefit comes in) and of course data on the carbon footprint to manufacture each type of electrical device.
Weight: we used the Furniture Reuse Network’s 2009 data as a starting point, updated some figures, and sourced more online, as averages of representative products.
Our next task was to find a way to calculate carbon emissions savings through repairs at Restart Parties, effectively through extending the lifecycle of devices. Our model assumes that the extension of an existing device’s life will prevent carbon emissions in manufacture of a new gadget.
Displacement rate: the rate by which we prevent a new manufacture. Our biggest – and most necessary – assumption is that a fix at a Restart Party displaces a new manufacture by 50%. That is, that a repaired device will live on for an extra 50% more than its intended life.
Our figures are as accurate as currently possible due to the lack of data available to the public on the effectiveness of repairs or consumer behaviours after repair. We believe this is a very worthy area for further research.
Where do the CO2 figures come from?
Sadly, there is no standard data for CO2 emissions in manufacture of consumer electronics and electricals. For many device categories, data is very difficult to come by.
Together with a team of six volunteers and coaching from Circular Ecology, in 2015 we spent over 60 person-hours scouring the internet for data on the pre-use carbon footprint of these 34 device categories. We looked in academic journals, in company CSR reports, on company websites, on Google Scholar, on industry databases, in documents prepared for the EU.
For the handful of categories for which we could not find data, we have created an estimate based on a category of device with similar weight and composition.
You can view the sources for our reference data, review the data quality for each category, and download for your own use. We are planning an update of this data in 2018 – please get in touch if you’d like to be involved.
In July 2018 as part of the redevelopment of the Fixometer, we discovered and resolved some subtle bugs in the calculations that meant figures for Miscellaneous products were being under-reported. You can find out more about these here.
How accurate is the carbon footprint data?
The carbon footprint of products vary because of a range of factors. This can be from different choice of materials in the product, different manufacturing routes & efficiencies and different logistics, amongst others. However, to provide a level of transparency we used data quality indicators to assess each piece of data collected. Data quality indicators are used in carbon footprinting to ensure that the accuracy of each datapoint is understood and transparent. These are available to view and allow you to see which items have good data quality and which items would benefit from better quality data.
What does “repairable” mean?
Many devices leave a Restart Party that seem worthy of more effort. Some need spare parts that we don’t have at our immediate disposal. Sometimes device owners go home ready to finish the job themselves – this occurs in about 6% of all cases. Others are referred to professional repairers. These are recorded as “repairable”.
What happens to the items which are designated “end-of-life”?
A device is only labelled “end-of-life” when a Restarter and the owner decide it is not cost-effective or realistic to repair the device.
We encourage owners of end-of-life devices to seek out a reuse opportunity before taking them to be recycled. This is the most resource-efficient option. Many devices can be sold or given away for parts. But ultimately, we would like to see devices recycled so that their materials can be recovered. Here is our advice.
Do fixes include software and hardware fixes? Which are more common?
Many of our fixes are in fact software related.
Issues related to software contribute to a feeling of “perceived obsolescence”, and motivate an owner of a device to abandon it, when a simple software fix can address the frustrations of a user and prolong the lifecycle of a gadget. In fact, often times mobiles, tablets and laptops can refuse to boot due to software problems.
With laptops, software fixes are just as common as hardware ones.
What can we learn from the data?
What is the most common item fixed? With the highest fix rate?
Laptops, mobiles, and small kitchen items are by far the most commonly fixed devices at Restart Parties – partly because they are the most commonly brought devices. In terms of fix rates, however, musical instruments, toys, headphones and lamps are most likely to be fixed.
What is the most common end-of-life item? With the lowest fix rate?
Laptops are too! Flat screens and heating/cooling appliances have proven tough, but they are not that frequently brought to events. We also have trouble with PC accessories like mice, keyboards, and computer speakers, kettles, decorative and/or safety lights.
How important are spare parts?
Roughly 18% of repairs require spare parts. In exceptional cases, especially for screen repairs, participants bring the parts with them and we are able to fix the device on the spot. Most require follow-up by the device owner.
Spare parts for some devices and categories of devices are found for sale online. To ensure you can keep your devices for as long as possible, we would encourage you to research the availability of quality spare parts before choosing a device to buy.
Can we (re)use this tool for our own community reuse or repair work?
Absolutely! We have licensed the code and shared it on Github for this purpose. If you would like us to create a customised version of this monitoring tool for your work, we can do this for a fee.
Can we download the data?
Yes, you can do so here! The data is licensed as open for this purpose. Please let us know what you learn from it!
What can we learn about why products break?
We analyse the data we record to learn more about why products break and how they could be made easier to fix. Our Data Workbench let’s us explore the repair data collected though a series of quests, each of which investigates a particular question. It’s a simple way to help us advocate for more repairable products and pro-repair policies.