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Choosing Repair Over Replacement: A Sustainable Approach to Electronic Waste

Text: Anastasia Galactionova

Photo credit wix

In an age where technology evolves at lightning speed, the question of how to manage our ever-growing pile of outdated electronics looms becomes more crucial. Electronic devices, such as TVs, cell phones, and refrigerators, come with an expiration date. This inevitable obsolescence leads to frequent replacements, contributing to a growing mountain of e-waste. This makes proper e-waste management an around-the-clock necessity. As the fastest-growing category of municipal solid waste, global e-waste production is estimated at a staggering 20–50 million tons annually.

Our study in Finland reveals a complex attitude towards second-hand electronics. Approximately 50% of respondents admitted they never purchase second-hand electrical appliances, mobile phones, or computers. Yet, a significant proportion, ranging between 38-46%, expressed interest in learning how to repair such devices. Also Harald Throne-Holst, a senior researcher at Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University, provides an intriguing insight. According to their studies, people are more motivated to acquire repair skills themselves than to rely on a network of repair bureaus. This trend might explain the surge in popularity of DIY repair videos on platforms like YouTube, where tutorials on tasks like replacing phone screens draws massive viewership. One of the reasons may be that when users undertake repairs themselves, they have complete control over the quality of the parts used. This contrasts with outsourcing services, where users might experience uncertainty whether genuine or non-branded parts were used in repairs.

This shift in consumer behavior towards self-repair over purchasing second-hand items underscores a shift in the values associated with the electronic devices. Repairing equipment and gadgets is not only about saving money; it's about embracing sustainability, understanding the lifecycle of the devices, and taking an active role in reducing e-waste. As we navigate the challenges of the circular citizens, the rise of the self-repair movement offers a glimmer of hope. It's a step towards a more sustainable relationship with our gadgets and devices, in which we value longevity and resourcefulness over the fleeting allure of the new.


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