Electronic waste is the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream. But 100,000 tonnes of e-waste could be avoided, if we fixed just 10% of perfectly repairable appliances. The appetite for repair is growing and I believe this approach is here to stay.
2020 has been a year of unparalleled challenges. With global climate and environmental events now a regular fixture on the news agenda, many of us are taking action in our own homes — and a circular economy has a role to play and can be part of the solution. With the pandemic causing most of the world to spend more time at home than ever, the trend towards more sustainable behaviours has accelerated. Be it through a conscious effort to make positive changes, to save money or simply due to a lack of options, people have been fixing appliances that they may otherwise have thrown away — and there couldn’t be a better time to encourage this behaviour.
While much of the public focus on reducing waste centres on single-use plastics, electronic appliances in our homes — such as washing machines and fridges — continue to be sent unnecessarily to landfills, with a hugely negative impact on our environment. The United Nations has warned that electronic waste is the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream; and the WEEE Forum, the brains behind International E-Waste Day, estimates that only 17.4 percent of e-waste last year was recycled. That means that the rest was burnt, or ended up in landfill — creating environmental hazards for years to come. However, the encouraging news is that 100,000 tonnes of e-waste could be avoided, if we fixed just 10 percent of perfectly repairable appliances.
A survey carried out by the London Recycles campaign has shown that people are eager to repair and reuse things, with over two-thirds saying that they would repair more of their household items if they knew how. At CDSL, we’ve seen a record-breaking surge in people seeking through eSpares, our leading consumer brand, to fix their appliances rather than buying new. Our #FixFirst campaign encourages people to fix their computers and household appliances themselves, rather than simply kicking their underperforming appliances to the kerb. By repairing appliances, consumers benefit from saving funds, as well as a feeling of empowerment. With sustainability an increasing focus for people, they can also extend the lifespan of their appliances, knowing that they are doing the right thing for the planet.
Alongside the people striving to make change in their own homes, it’s essential that businesses take action, too, to support this positive change. Any business, be it local ones or larger brands, can make a difference by collaborating and recognising the behaviour change in today’s consumers. Last month’s International E-Waste Day highlighted the need for education, to help consumers make informed decisions.
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The appetite for repair is growing and I believe this approach is here to stay. The desire to minimise our environmental impact is one that we need to drive forwards if we hope to one day achieve a truly circular economy. With environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg leading the way, it’s clear that young people are more savvy and environmentally aware than previous generations might have been — and they’re also putting pressure on businesses to recognise their own responsibility to take action and educate. We need now more than ever to support future generations and make sure that we are all responsible consumers, driving a circular economy in our own homes and with the businesses we choose to support.