As Europe looks to change its throw-away culture and cut down on e-waste, we spoke to Bas Flipsen, a Professor of Industrial Design Engineering at TU Delft in the Netherlands about what it takes to fix your smartphone.
Environmental experts have long condemned Europe’s throw-away culture when it comes to electronic devices. When they break, we often tend to simply throw them away rather than try to repair them.
But buying new ones instead of fixing them costs billions of euros every year. Euronews spoke to Bas Flipsen, a Professor of Industrial Design Engineering at TU Delft in the Netherlands about what the process of repairing a smartphone really entails.
“In [our lab], we assess the ease of disassembly. Look at smartphones, for instance. Everybody knows that the screen breaks often. But also batteries break down after a couple of years.
“Over here you have the battery. These are only parts, so we dismantled this to have a look at how easily accessible this part is. But there are other issues with it involved, like the back cover, which breaks down. It’s made out of glass, and it breaks down very easily. The back cover is really difficult to repair or replace because you need to access it from the top to down and you need to dismantle all the parts. If you put a very breakable part underneath, you need to peel off a lot of other parts before you can access that part.
“Another one is the screen. This one is broken of course. And if you repair the screen it actually won’t work because you also need to replace a chip which defines it as an original part.
“There’s a lot of glue involved. In this one, there’s a lot of glue of course around the edges. When you put things together, they are watertight. And watertightness means you have to glue it. If you want to put it back together, you need to buy the sticker which has the glue on it involved. You need to have it. But it’s also difficult to glue it back together and you have to be very professional in that sense.
“Maybe 40 years ago, repairing was the norm. And now replacing is the norm. So there’s a lot to do. You can make a good repair or design for refurbishment, but if the consumer doesn’t change their culture a little bit, then it’s kind of difficult. So we have to!”