What is E-Waste?

Earlier in the year, I decided to learn and write about e-waste and made a commitment to tackle our own e-waste. Defining e-waste seems a good place to begin.

What is Waste?

I began my search for a definition of e-waste by looking up the word waste in my Webster’s New World College Dictionary Fourth Edition. About halfway down the 4 inches occupied by the word waste, I came across the following definition, “left over, superfluous, refuse, or no longer of use.”

What is E-Waste?

Electronic Waste Pile - WikipediaA national or global consensus on what constitutes e-waste, electronic waste, e-scrap, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) does not exist.

Is that pile of old monitors, desktop computers, and keyboards in your garage e-waste? The answer is it depends.

Some organizations define e-waste as an electrical or electronic device, piece of equipment, or component that has been discarded. This could include items that will be reused, resold, refurbished, repaired, recycled, salvaged, or disposed of. Others designate e-waste as what is left over after removal of usable components and valuable materials. Some apply the term e-waste to electronic equipment that is obsolete, outdated, or at the end of its useful life.

The table below shows a list of possible e-waste items by category.

Computer Mobile Devices Hard Copy Devices Audio / Visual Other
Desktop Computer Cell Phone Copier CB Radio Cables
Game Console Digital Camera Fax CD / DVD Player Calculator
Hard Drive E-Reader Multi-Function Device Radio Connectors
Hub Handheld Game Player Printer Radio Scanner Desktop Phone
Keyboard Media Player Scanner Speakers Microwave
Laptop Pager Stereo Equipment Rechargeable Battery
Monitor PDA Tape Player Small Appliance
Mouse Portable GPS Device Television Wires
Peripherals Smartphone Two Way Radio
Router Tablet Computer VCR
Switch Video Recorder
Zip Drive

 U.S. EPA E-Waste Definition

The U.S. EPA defines e-waste as, “waste electrical and electronic equipment that is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to function (including all components, subassemblies and consumables which are part of the original equipment at the time of discarding),” and may include:

  • Entertainment Electronics – TVs, DVD players, tuners
  • Office, Information, and Communications Technology – computers, telephones, mobile phones
  • Household Appliances – refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves
  • Lighting Devices – desk lamps
  • Power Tools – power drills
  • Sport and Leisure Devices – fitness machines, remote control cars

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iFixit – DIY Electronic Gadget Repair is Green

iFixit is an apt name for a company making do-it-yourself electronic gadget repair accessible, cool, and maybe even fun. Repairing stuff is green.

iFixit Fist Holding WrenchElectronic gadgets like computers, e-readers, smartphones, tablets, and game consoles often appear to be mysterious devices that cannot be opened to replace a battery or taken apart and repaired. Manufacturers seem to make non-battery replacement and non-repair friendly devices on purpose and then encourage us to buy “new and improved” versions even before the old ones wear out or break.

iFixit is out to change the paradigm by empowering people to fix their own electronic gadgets and other equipment.

iFixit Background

It all started back in 2003, in a dorm room at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. With no repair manual available, iFixit founders Luke Soules and Kyle Wiens used the trial and error method to fix an iBook.

They moved on to other computers and bought broken computers to use for parts. iFixit was launched when they decided to sell parts themselves.

Next, they started writing repair guides for electronic gadgets and posting them online for free. People started using the guides and saving money.

The business grew and their mission expanded.

iFixit Self-Repair Manifesto

  • http://www.ifixit.com/ManifestoRepair is Better than Recycling
  • Repair Saves the Planet
  • Repair Saves You Money
  • Repair Teaches Engineering
  • If You Can’t Fix It, You Don’t Own It

What Does iFixit Do?

“We think it should be easy for people to learn how to fix things”.

iFixit is like Wikipedia for the repair world. iFixit provides a platform and website to make it easy for people to share and collaborate. Users can create a teardown or repair guide, ask or answer a troubleshooting question, submit a story, edit content, earn badges, or join a team. The information is available to everyone, for free.

  • Solving the Red-Ring-of-Death Problem on an XBox 360 - Photo: iFixitRepair Manuals – provide step-by-step instructions and photos on how to install, replace, and repair components and devices.
  • Teardowns – show and explain the process of disassembling a device or piece of equipment.
  • Troubleshooting – people share knowledge by asking and answering questions.
  • Parts & Tools – Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and game console parts provide an income stream. As do repair tools. My favorite is the spudger, a pencil-like, antistatic tool, used for tinkering around inside electronic components.
  • Services – for a fee, iFixit will assist companies with teardowns, technical documentation, and converting existing documentation.
  • Blog – DIY repair and related topics at iFixit.org.

Orange Teardown

Geeks and non-geeks alike will enjoy the easy-to-read Orange Teardown complete with photos. I challenge you to not laugh.

Fix the Planet

For iFixit, do-it-yourself repair is more than just a business.

“Repair is recycling! The best way to keep hardware out of landfills is to keep it working longer. Toxic electronic waste is a global problem that we all need to pitch in to solve. Self repair saves you money and helps the environment!”

In the short video below Kyle Wiens explains what e-waste is and shows us that there is no “away”.

Non-Geeky Repair

As kids, my children liked to take stuff apart. My spouse is good at repair. I am mechanical ability challenged. However, I have been known to fix things. For instance, apparently, I am the only person in the family able to sew a button on a pair of shorts or a shirt.

For fun, I searched the iFixit website for “how to sew on a button.” The list of results mostly referred to electronic gadget buttons. However, I did run across “How do I patch a hole in a pair of jeans?” and a sewing glossary.

Perhaps I will create a “Sewing on a Button” repair guide.

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