Your e-reader or phone has stopped working. What do you do? You can take it to the local repair shop, exchange it at the manufacturer’s for a new piece, or buy a new device and dump the old one in the dry waste, hoping it reaches someone who will recycle it. But chances of your device being recycled are slim unless it is handed over to an authorised e-waste recycler or accepted by the manufacturer as part of a takeback scheme.
In most cases, an unwanted gadget lands up in an informal recycling unit that lacks the advanced technology needed to dismantle it safely.
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The best (and most responsible) option available then is to repair. This obviously seems like the more painstaking and time-consuming alternative to purchasing a new one. But, the long-term, large-scale costs of throwing out electronics and electrical appliances are much higher than you think. So, while repairing might seem like an expensive and difficult proposition now, it is the more sustainable and responsible thing to do as consumers. In fact, countries like Sweden have made repairing an attractive option with the help of tax breaks that curb the use-and-throw culture.
From apparel to appliances, the 2017 ruling covered a wide range of consumer goods and set off a repairing revolution.
Save costs: This is the most obvious and immediate impact. Why invest in a brand new device when in a few hours and for a few hundred bucks, your old one is back in good order?
Reduce waste: Before you throw, know that most common household electronics contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, barium oxide, vinyl chloride and others. Lead (used in TV and computer monitors) and vinyl chloride (used in keyboards and cables) are known human carcinogens while mercury (used in flat panel displays) affects the nervous system.
Left undisturbed, these materials pose no danger to us. But when burned or dumped–as happens with most of India’s discarded electronics–these toxins pollute our air, soil and water, and could seriously affect human and animal health.
Make them fit for resale: Maybe your phone stopped charging and you already bought a new one. But, just by replacing its battery, you could bring the old one to work again. If a small and inexpensive fix can give your old devices a new life, why not get it fixed? It could be useful to someone who cannot afford a new one and helps them enjoy the benefits of the technology as you did. Your unwanted phone stays out of the landfill and you help someone less fortunate in the process.
Support the repair industry: Now more than ever, a small act such as choosing to have your old device repaired will make a big difference to the lives and livelihoods of small repair businesses. It could help them stay in business and continue the good work of keeping a perfectly good electronic item from going to waste.
For too long, we’ve believed that the time and money spent on repairing and re-using the electronics and appliances we already have are not worth it. The time to fix that mindset is now.
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