December 28, 2012, 7:57 PM — When was the last time a broken DVD player lead to a trip to the repair shop? If you can even find a repair shop near you, the odds are good the cost to fix your DVD player will be more than the price of a new one. The reality is we don't fix electronics anymore, we replace them.
Post-Xmas is when most old gear gets tossed, feeding what experts call a growing throw-away electronics culture. While tech company's benefit from shorter products lifecycles by encouraging the sale of replacement gear, the byproduct can be harmful to household budgets and the planet.
Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the Electronics TakeBack Coalition in San Francisco, says the drive for smaller thinner products with increasingly harder to replace components, is partly to blame. But also, companies making delicate electronics with short warranty periods are pushing people to trash their digital gear, not fix it.
"It's almost always cheaper to buy a new printer than to fix the old one, if you can even find a place to make the repairs," Kyle says. The end result is electronics - that contain toxic substances, including lead, nickel, cadmium, mercury, brominated ame retardants - ending up in landfills around the world. The environmental group called E-Stewards estimates only 11 to 14% of e-waste is sent to recyclers -- the rest ends up in landfills or is burned resulting in soil, water, and air pollution.
To find a list of places to recycle your old tech gear near you, find free recycle-by-mail programs, or how to easily sell your used gear online, skip to the end of this article.
Hard to fix gadget trend
"We are seeing more (electronics) parts being glued into place, like the touchscreens on many smartphones, or the batteries on ultra-thin notebooks," says Kyle. For example, Apple was criticized by some earlier this year for gluing its lithium polymer battery cells directly to the aluminum unibody shell of the Retina MacBook Pro in order to reduce its size. Teardown site iFixit blasted Apple saying the design made repairs nearly impossible and battery replacements would cost 54% more than other MacBooks. While some recyclers said the glued-in battery made it harder to recycle, other recyclers disagreed.