Computie Electronics Recycling Centre in Vancouver is where broken gadgets are given a second chance.
Stacks of laptops, rows of desktop towers, and boxes of motherboards fill the cramped warehouse. Staff technicians do their best to refurbish the devices, salvage what parts they can and recycle the rest.
Every year, that seems to get much harder.
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“They customize all the parts just for their one or two products,” said Elon Zhang, a repair technician. “It’s frustrating.”
Zhang said leading technology companies like Apple and Toshiba are trending towards proprietary tools and parts: internal components, which were once modular and universal, are now soldered together.
The shift has made upgrading and repairing devices more difficult for experts and nearly impossible for the average consumer.
A recent poll by Innovative Research Group found that many Canadians are tossing their technology when normally fixable issues arise.
Nearly half of those polled, 44 per cent, said they have discarded or replaced a device because of a broken screen, while 42 per cent gave up on their gadget because of a weak or dead battery.
“Companies are purposely making it harder not for technological reasons often, but just to make it difficult so they can control their repair services,” said Rodrigo Samayoa, digital campaigner for OpenMedia, which co-sponsored the poll.
The other co-sponsor, iFixit, is well-known for buying the latest devices, breaking them down and posting do-it-yourself repair videos online.
The two groups have been pushing for “right to repair” legislation to be adopted in the United States and are hoping to fix things in Canada as well.
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“Manufacturers should be required to release repair information for products they sell,” said Samayoa.
Samayoa said similar legislation was adopted in the automotive industry, which has provided mechanics the knowledge and tools to repair vehicles of all makes and models.
Seventy-five per cent of Canadians polled said they would support “right to repair” legislation in Canada.
Nearly 12,000 people have signed a petition that will be sent to Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains.
Zhang said it often takes a half-dozen tools just to open up some of new devices, only to find there’s little he can do but recycle the parts for the metals.
While he enjoys the challenge, he knows something as simple as a battery replacement shouldn’t be that difficult.
“Ninety-nine per cent of people, we’re just customers,” Zhang said. “We’re just trying to use things longer.”
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