Image via LaMenta3 on Flickr
Despite increases in recycling worldwide, the EPA estimates that only about 25 percent of America‘s end-of-life electronics are actually recycled. Whether tossed in a landfill or left in a closet, the rest becomes waste. We tend to think of e-waste as only affecting people half a world away, in places like Accra and Guiyu. But irresponsible electronic disposal hits much closer to home than you might think. We’re not just letting 75 percent of our old electronics go to waste, we’re also wasting an opportunity to rebuild the domestic electronics industry.
Even though the electronics manufacturing jobs are today primarily in Asia, there’s no reason repair and recycling can’t become a true-blooded American industry. There are currently 5 million tons of electronics rusting in garages, junk drawers, and storage units around the nation. Instead of losing value, those items could be turned into profit. Ten years ago, the EPA estimated that the recycling and reuse industry accounted for roughly 1.1 million jobs and $236 billion dollars in revenue. If recycling and refurbishing rates in America increase, those numbers could rise dramatically.
At least one large electronics manufacturer has already found a way to responsibly handle its e-waste and create much-needed jobs in the bargain. Through a partnership with Goodwill called Reconnect, Dell collects 90 million pounds of electronics each year.
Image: Adding a second hard drive to upgrade a 27″ Intel iMac
Two weeks ago, we were dismayed to learn that EPEAT gave the Retina MacBook Pro a “Gold” certification, defining any device with a USB port as “upgradeable.” That’s not how we define “upgradable.” You agreed: nearly a thousand of you emailed EPEAT CEO Bob Frisbee to tell him about upgrades you’ve made to your devices, demonstrating how upgrading has made a difference in your life.
That’s a thousand stories of upgraded computers, televisions, mp3 players, tablets, headphones, and video game consoles. That’s hundreds of terabytes of added RAM and hard drive storage. That’s thousands of devices that stayed in use instead of ending up in a junk heap.
I read every one of those emails. Reading your stories reminded me that the people who use iFixit are awesome (but I knew that, of course). You’re quietly fixing computers for your friends and family, keeping electronics working, and spreading the repair gospel far and wide. And you have great stories about repair and upgrade. Here are some of my favorites:
The Microsoft Surface is a quirky cat. Microsoft engineers clearly took a different internal design direction than what we’ve seen in the iPad and the Nexus/Kindles. But sadly, its overall fixability is closer to the near-impossible-to-open iPad than it is to the spudger-friendly Android tablets.
The Surface’s design allows you to open it without fear of shattering the display glass, but it’s not a trivial procedure. And you’ll have to dig through the whole tablet in order to get to the LCD/glass, which will be the most likely reason you’re scratching the Surface to begin with. Overall it received a below-average 4 out 10 repairability score — just a notch above the iPad, but well below the Nexus/Kindles. Read the rest of this article »
Apple announced the release of a whole bunch of mini stuff this week, but our favorite mini in the bunch is the 2012 Mac Mini. Last year’s iteration of the Mac Mini impressed us with its accessibility and upgradeability. Will the newest Mini follow suit? To the teardown-mobile, Robin!
For the first time in a long time, we were able to give our plastic opening tools and pentalobe drivers a well-deserved day off. A firm grip and a good twist is all it takes to get into the 2012 Mini. Inside, we found an empty extra SATA connection on the logic board perfect for adding a secondary hard drive, replaceable RAM and hard drive, and modular components — just like in last year’s model. Kudos to the Mini for receiving an excellent 8 out of 10 repairability score, and to Apple keeping it so fix-friendly. Read the rest of this article »
The 13″ Retina MacBook Pro came out earlier this week, and thankfully we didn’t have to wait long to analyze it on our operating table. Over the past couple of months, we’ve been pretty vocal about the MacBook Pro 15″ Retina’s shortcomings — specifically, its lack of repairability, upgradeability, and recyclability. So, as we dove into the newest member of the Retina family, we were quite interested to see how the 13″ model stacked up to its big brother. Read the rest of this article »
We’ve all seen Rosie the Riveter: blue coveralls, red polka-dotted bandanna, biceps blazing. Rosie is a cultural icon, used to mobilize women into manufacturing during World War II. But sixty years after Rosie helped recruit 3 million women into war plants across the US, many women still seem reluctant to pick up the riveter.
Women make up over half of the population. So, why aren’t there more women repairing? Read the rest of this article »