How to Fix the Planet 12/23/2009 7:53:02 AM



Repair is recycling! The best way to keep electronics out of landfills is to keep them working longer. Toxic electronic waste is a global problem that we are working to solve. Self repair saves you money and helps the environment!

Many people don't know that electronics have all kinds of nasty chemicals in them. For example, the glass in a typical CRT has about ten pounds of lead in it. Most flat panel displays contain significant amounts of mercury. Plastic cases come coated with fire-resistant chemicals called poly-brominated flame retardants, some of the nastiest chemicals around. You can't just throw those kind of chemicals into a landfill because they contaminate soils and leach into the water supply.

To recycle electronics properly, you must carefully disassemble them and separate out each type of material. The raw materials can then be safely used to make new products. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen as often as you'd think. Many of the electronics that we think are "recycled" are simply shipped to the third world.
Why? It turns out that it's expensive to recycle e-waste properly. It's expensive because the process is labor-intensive, and it's expensive because (in the US, at least) environmental laws require e-recyclers to use environmentally friendly processes.

Maintaining and repairing devices dramatically improves their usable lifespan. If we worked together and doubled the length of time the average piece of electronics were used, we could halve the amount of e-waste created. If we take care of our devices and fix them when they break, we can do a lot better than that.

iFixIt.com has just announced a beta version of iFixIt Answers, a collaborative repair community for gadgets. It might be a great resource for friends and family who canít figure out how to work the TV remote.

How does it work? You ask a question on Answers and then can follow as folks help out and answer your questions. This also creates a database of answers for multiple devices including MacBooks, iPods, and Sony laptops. Itís a good idea because Kyle has a great following of DIYers and most of them arenít out to troll the forums with dumb questions or answers.

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