‘Some people say that repair fanatics are stealing products from the recycling sector. Others claim recyclers process things that ought to be repaired first. Whatever you think, we are all dealing with complex, new gadgets,’ says Kyle Wiens, ceo of online repair community iFixit.
According to Wiens, the real question is: can we convince consumers not to buy every single new item as soon as it hits the shelves? Can we get them to hold on to what they own a little bit longer? ‘New products are often badly made from a recycling and dismantling point of view,’ he argues.
‘Our recent user survey shows that people successfully fix an average of seven products thanks to our platform,’ the ceo adds. ‘Repair is the cornerstone of a truly circular economy. I’d say we have to think about the innermost loops of a product first before getting lost in the concept of the very broad loop that is the recycling industry.’
Rating: zero out of ten
Wiens is happy to share the ranking of some of the popular smartphones of 2020. The Samsung Note 20 Ultra got a 3/10. ‘Battery replacement is far too difficult for a replaceable component. Screen repairs are tedious and unnecessarily expensive,’ he explains.
Apple AirPods, however, scored a risible 0/10. ‘This is a great product to use and consumers agree as around 85 million units were sold last year. However, the afterlife of this gizmo is a nightmare.’ iFixit concludes that no hardware components can be accessed without damaging the device. Sealed-in batteries are the worst aspect, severely limiting the lifespan and making AirPods ‘nothing more than a fancy disposable item’.
The worst thing for e-scrap recyclers is that other companies are scrambling to copy Apple’s ‘horrible’ product design. ‘They’re looking at the market leader, making the same stuff to sell more stuff. It’s crazy because traditional headphones are incredibly easy to recycle. You can take the plastic casing apart, throw it into a shredder and then get the copper out. That’s fine. Suddenly, wireless headphones are everywhere. They represent a very big challenge.’
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