The folks behind iFixit are typically occupied with tearing apart electronics, but for Earth Day, they're turning their focus on recycling, as in: don't. In a guest post on Treehugger titled "Happy Earth Day! Don't Recycle," iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens and writer Elizabeth Chamberlain explain:
We all grew up with the old mantra: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—your checklist for sustainable living. But recycling is the final item on that list for a reason. When it comes to electronics, recycling should be the last option. Not the first.
Though recycling has its benefits, "when it comes to the environment, it's time to stop being 'less bad'; it's time to start being good," they write. The pair give us some good reminders why we should reconsider the feel-good experience of dropping off devices at an e-waste bin:
The green gadget is a myth. "No matter what manufacturers try tell you, there is no such thing as a green electronic." A cell phone is made up of 500 to 1,000 components. These materials, including cobalt, cadmium, nickel, lead, copper and gold, are sometimes sourced from countries with poor environmental, human rights and mining practices.
Manufacturing is energy intensive. As much as 70 percent of the energy an average laptop uses throughout its lifespan is spent during the manufacturing process. "All of that energy is lost when a device is shredded."
Mining for materials. Our insatiable appetites for new gadgets mean higher raw material extraction rates. The last decade has seen production for iron ore increase by 180 percent, cobalt by 165 percent and lithium by 125 percent.
It's worth reading the commentary in whole, as the two make an impassioned plea for repairing (and then repurposing or donating) as a recycling alternative — they are fixers after all. If it were up to them, they'd tweak the re-mantra to: "Reduce. Reuse. Repair. Then recycle."
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