Don’t throw it out — repair it
As technologies continue to modernise and electronic devices get smaller, laptops get faster, and digital cameras get better, a lot of the used electronics that wind up in collection centres are anything but junk. They may not be the latest model, but it’s still a real shame to see them thrown away. Reuse programmes can extend the useful lifespan of many devices by a number of years. Repairing and reusing old electrical and electronic equipment not only reduces the volume of waste we generate, but just as importantly, it helps to conserve precious and limited sources of raw materials. This is also required by the EU Framework Directive on Waste, which assigns great importance to the reuse or continued use of old electrical and electronic equipment.
Repairs have economic and environmental benefits
A study by the Austrian Ministry of the Environment shows that repairing equipment often brings environmental, economic and social benefits all at once — in other words, benefits at all the different levels of sustainability.
For example, the study shows that a broken washing machine’s lifespan can be doubled from 8 to 16 years, and that the repair costs are significantly less than the cost of a new machine. The environmental impacts of the repair, which arise from the production of replacement parts and transportation processes, also involve significantly less energy and resources than disposing of the old machine and producing a whole new one. Repair work creates or maintains jobs in Austria – partly because repairs nearly always take place in Austria, whereas new washing machines are mostly manufactured abroad.
For very old machines that consume large amounts of water and power, on the other hand, their increased energy needs may exceed the economic benefits of a repair. For these machines, it makes sense to reuse and recycle the individual components and/or raw materials. The decision as to whether a given piece of equipment can be reused is often made at municipal collection centres. Electrical and electronic equipment dropped off by consumers are reviewed by collection centre experts, after which they can decide whether it makes more sense to repair the equipment or recycle its materials.
Repair networks can help
Has the time finally come to say goodbye to that old espresso machine or clothes dryer? Or has it still got a few years left in it? One way to find out is to check with the “Umweltberatung” environmental consulting service, or with repair networks.
Try buying used!
Many cities now have “reuse shops” that offer used electrical and electronic equipment ranging from washing machines to nearly-new smartphones, often at very reasonable prices. A visit to one of these shops could be extremely worthwhile. Buying a used machine or device is a great way to be kind to the environment — and to your wallet as well.