Reduce, Repair, Re-use, Recover
The goal of ZeroWaste invokes the "4Rs" of waste reduction, which starts with:
- Reduce - buy only what you need, and choose products which can be easily repaired and recycled, to encourage industries to produce fewer things which will end up as unmanageable waste
...and then the 3Ra of Recycling:
- Repair - keep tools and appliances well maintained, and have them repaired when they break down, rather than just replacing them when they stop being new
- Re-use - find new uses for items which cannot be repaired, or are no longer useful for their original purpose, eg using cardboard boxes as weed mat in gardens and reforestation
- Recover (sometimes called Reclaim) - turn waste which cannot be repaired or re-used back into raw materials which can be made into new products, eg composting, scrap metal collection, turning used office paper into toilet paper
Applying the 4Rs to E-Waste
One of the best ways to reduce the amount of e-waste needing to be processed is to keep computers in use for as long as possible. Manufacturers can help with by designing computers which are easier to repair, or upgrade, instead of replacing. Distributors can help by buying products from manufacturers who do this. I encourage anybody who uses computers to learn how to open up cases and swap out parts, as well as how to install a new operating system. In extreme cases this can involve a steep learning curve, and success is not guaranteed. At one point I tried Stuffing Linux into an Old Banger , but had to give up. However, I also have an old Toshiba laptop, currently running a specialised version of Ubuntu with the LXDE desktop, which we are using as a music player in the lounge. In this case, the taste of success was sweet.
The movement towards applying the concepts of free code software to the design and manufacturing of hardware results in a concept called 'free hardware designs', sometimes known as
. When all computer hardware was based on free hardware designs, it can all run entirely on free code software, making it a lot easier to keep it useful until it ceases to physically work.
Reducing means consolidating one or more machines into smaller, more energy efficient form factors. Surplus equipment can be either reused or recycled for the components (spare parts) or extractable metals. In addition reducing means thinking about more efficient layouts, whether running Power over Ethernet to your WiFi instead of separate power adapter or configuring your system to be more efficient (as in spectrum usage or peer connection sharing).