Thought Leadership

The e-Waste Problem: It hurts us all, how can we help?

In an incresasingly throwaway society, we all have an obligation, and in most cases a strong desire, to reduce any negative impact we have on our environment.

Technology, and it’s continuous eye-watering rate of evolution, contributes significant impact through generation of electronic waste (e-waste).  A proportion of the technology hardware discarded every year is due to old tech simply not being compatible with up-to-date living. It becomes insecure and unable to support newer software, or is phased out due to new ways of working.  However significant waste is also generated when we throwaway broken devices.  These are items which could provide more service, over a longer life, if we chose to repair rather than discard.

I’m encouraged by an initiative the Austrian Government launched in 2021 and reported on recently by the BBC. The Repair Bonus Scheme aims to reduce e-waste by encouraging the Austrian population to repair their broken electronics instead of throwing them away.  Under the scheme, the Austrian government pays up to €200 towards the cost of repair.  This initiative has not only helped reduce e-waste but has also created new opportunities for economic growth, training, and employment through the expansion of a repair industry.

Perhaps we in the UK can learn from Austria’s example?  A similar scheme in the UK would encourage consumers and businesses to make more use of previous technology investments.  We’d all think twice about disposing of that old(ish) laptop, iPhone or other gadget if a) the financial pain of getting it working again was minimized, and b) it could be repaired locally with ease.  Imagine the technical skills that would be needed, on an increased scale – careers forged, jobs created.  Also a positive impact on town centres – why shouldn’t empty retail premises be re-used as repair centres?  The idea of taking a damaged tablet to town, dropping it at the local repair centre whilst I do a little shopping and grab a coffee is attractive.

But we don’t have such a scheme in the UK.  We see local repair shops, largely focusing on mobile phone repairs, come and go.  They can be successful, but it’s a fairly niche market, and both price and quality of repair can be variable.  It’s easier and perhaps cheaper to just get a new ‘phone, isn’t it?  Well, maybe not, but it’s certainly less hassle.  That’s the general view.

Our business isn’t focused on consumer electronics, we provide enterprise solutions to our business customers. Inevitably though a lot of technology hardware passes through our hands – both at the beginning and end of it’s life. However we work hard to make sure the technology we supply to our customers has a long life span.  For example, we encourage the adoption of manufacturer-backed hardware warranties to cover the entire predicted life of PCs – typically 5 years.  This means any failures are repaired quickly and efficiently throughout the life of the device – no need to bin and replace.  These warranties are extremely good value when purchased alongside a new PC.  Once the warranty ends and the device is at the end of it’s original service life, we look for ways to re-use in alternative, less critical roles within the business.  Eventually, when a fault occurs outside of warranty, and there’s absolutely no way to gain more value and life, we manage the secure disposal and recycling of kit in adherence with WEEE regulations.

Let’s all think more about the kit we dispose of.  Can it be used elsewhere?  If it’s broken, is it repairable?  And can we encourage our Government to take Austria’s lead, reducing waste and generating a need for new skills locally, and new business opportunities within our local economies?

Want to know more about the hardware warranties we supply with hardware, to make our customer’s lives easier? Contact us.

Paul Williams