The most #ethicalmob

At The Restart Project, our favourite – and surprisingly uncommon – message is:

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We were amused to have dozens of friends and supporters sending us the Phonebloks video a few weeks ago. It is a very compelling concept for a modular, upgradeable mobile phone – inspired by Legos and very well communicated. It is a great idea, but it will remain a charming design fiction until a whole lot of things change in the electronics industry. Continue reading

A repairable Fairphone

fairphone teardown

This post was first published as a guest post on the Fairphone blog.

Two weeks ago we ran a workshop in the Fairphone Pop-Up Shop as part of London Design Festival. We were invited to create a participatory event built around the latest prototype of the Fairphone, the first smartphone designed and produced with transparency and fairness in mind.

Our organisation promotes a positive change in people’s relationship with electronics: regaining control of the devices we own, by learning to take them apart, troubleshoot them, repair them and prolong their life span. When it comes to mobiles, our motto is that “the most ethical phone is the one you already have,” meaning that we should always try our best to make the most of the devices we have before thinking of upgrading.

It comes as no surprise that we decided to perform a “gentle teardown” of the Fairphone, to investigate whether the ethical direction of the project is also reflected in a design for durability and repairability. Even before dismantling the phone, we already appreciated that the device is Dual SIM, expandable with microSD and with user-replaceable battery. But we wanted to find out more.

Five Restarters took apart the Fairphone, sharing the experience with 15 other participants and a few Fairphone staff members, answering our questions as we made progress. Here is what we found out.

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What we are throwing away

Our e-stuff is a goldmine. Recently the United Nations University and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) estimated that electronic waste now contains precious metal “deposits” 40 to 50 times richer than ores mined from the ground. Annually $16 billion in gold is built into our electronics and at least 85% is not recovered – lost forever.

WRAP estimates that in the UK, between now and 2020, 3 million tonnes of IT equipment, consumer electronics and display screens will be disposed.

This is roughly the weight of 30,000 Routemaster buses EACH YEAR.

According to WRAP, at least 25% of this waste could be reused.

But statistics are often abstractions. What actually happens on the ground? What does this look like? We visited Camden’s waste disposal and recycling site at Regis Road earlier this month.

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