Don’t throw away your old tech

Julie Hutchison
box of old phones and tech

At a glance

  • The Edinburgh Remakery, an award-winning charity and social enterprise, is solving the fast growing issue of e-waste with Repair Cafés
  • There are over 3000 Repair cafés around the world helping to repair and refurbish household tech and devices
  • The Edinburgh Remakery gifts devices to people in the local community and sells refurbished devices at more accessible prices.

If you have a box in your attic with old charging cables, mobile phones and other devices, you are not alone. E-waste is a fast-growing issue. You might however be surprised to know there are ways it can be repaired, re-used and recycled, creating benefits not only for environmental protection, but also enabling donated devices to be given to people who are experiencing digital exclusion. This socio-environmental win-win forms the basis for the concept underpinning The Edinburgh Remakery, an award-winning charity and social enterprise recently visited by a group of colleagues from LGT’s office in Edinburgh to spend an afternoon volunteering to help with e-waste segregation, among other tasks.   

That box in the attic isn’t junk after all

Repair cafés form part of a global movement: there are thought to be over 3,0001 of them in dozens of countries around the world.  Looking at the impact of The Edinburgh Remakery alone, it diverted almost 45 tonnes of electronic waste from landfill in 2023,2 of which around three quarters was repaired and around a quarter was responsibly recycled. During our volunteering afternoon, it was strangely therapeutic to dismantle old wi-fi routers, separating the circuit boards from metal and plastic casing. It’s not often you are asked to deliberately break something open with a screwdriver and take it apart.    

‘Make do and mend’ finds favour with a new generation

My grandparents’ generation faced war-time rationing and shortages. While that is not the backdrop we face in the UK today, the motivation not to waste otherwise useful objects is relevant to new generations for both positive lifestyle reasons, as well as financial necessity. This is where the repair and refurbishment focus of repair cafés comes in. Some of the repair skills that would have been second nature to my grandparents’ generation have been lost over the years, as people have become accustomed to simply buying new when something breaks. During our afternoon at The Edinburgh Remakery, it was interesting to see them preparing to host school holiday workshops for children, where young people would be learning various craft and repair skills. In 2023, they ran 93 repair and re-use workshops for various groups, evidencing real demand for this kind of practical help. 

Digital exclusion perpetuates inequalities

Figures from the Good Things Foundation show that people with high digital engagement save £659 more a year. 78% say they use the internet to support their wellbeing. At the same time as these health and financial benefits are being experienced by some, over one million people have lost broadband access in the cost-of-living crisis. 2.5m households are struggling to afford fixed broadband and 2.3m young people rely on mobile data for internet access. The work of The Edinburgh Remakery plays an important role here too, gifting over 350 devices for use by people in the local community. They have sold over 9,000 refurbished devices, sold at more accessible prices compared to new devices. 77% of people believe internet access is now an essential need. Those sales help to fund its charitable mission and the dual focus on delivering social and environmental benefits, including helping people to get online.3

When you find that box with your old chargers and devices, don’t throw it away.  If you live near Edinburgh, take it along to the Edinburgh Remakery or donate it by placing in one of their Tech Donation Boxes; a map with their locations can be found here. If you’d like to find a repair café near you, this website has a worldwide map with links to help you locate your nearest venue. 



[2] Edinburgh Remakery

[3] The Edinburgh Remakery and The Good Things Foundation 

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