Be part of the solution
The UK is one of the biggest producers of electronic waste in the world, with our unwanted electrical and tech waste accounting for 70% of the heavy metals found in landfills. According to GiffGaff, we have over 50 million unused mobile phones lying around; unsupported by manufacturers who maintain a ‘closed-box’ monopoly over repairs and spare parts, many are forced into obsolescence.
There is change in the air as more of us are demanding sustainability, forcing electronics manufacturers towards an open-box approach instead, increasing each device’s lifespan.
A recent YouGov poll reported an overwhelming 81% of consumers saying they wanted the UK’s 2021 ‘Right to Repair’ legislation covering household goods to be expanded to include smartphones, tablets and laptops. Other studies show people are many times more likely to buy a product when it is promoted as repairable.
Repairable products are not just better for us as consumers, they create jobs. Independent think tank Green Alliance estimates that remanufacturing and repair work could generate employment for more than 450,000 people in the UK by 2035. With support from the Wales Council for Voluntary Action and the Welsh government circular economy team, there are now 50 repair cafes across Wales. They’re all supported by a central team but each local organiser is responsible for setting up and running the cafe in their community.
Two new Fixing Factories, in Brent and Camden, were opened in 2022 by a partnership involving Restart and Possible (climate charities), Mer-IT Digital (CIC) and West London Waste Authority, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. In Brent, they repair donated laptops and tablets and pass them on to people without digital access; in Camden, you can bring in any small electronics and volunteers with fix them, or you can join a repair club to build up your fixing skills. Visitors can volunteer to get work experience and there are workshops about laptop repair, with an opportunity to bring in your own for fixing.
Of course, it’s not just about electronics. The people at R’cyke Y’bike have found a good way to get more people out cycling by saving unwanted bikes from landfill, refurbishing them with a team of volunteers and professional mechanics, then selling them at a fair price or giving them away to people in need. Whatever you’re passionate about, you can use your skills and experience to cut waste and support social inclusion in your community.