This might land a little closer to the individual consumer audience of this blog, but for small businesses, as well, these great ideas are a perfect alternative to dispositioning end-of-use devices or retired equipment. The benefit, of course, to reuse over even recycling is that it extends the use of electronics—a singularly important step to gain sustainability with your device usage. With recycling, on the other hand, you are tearing apart the device to its basic elements in the hopes of reclaiming precious materials and useful bits. While better than landfilling, recycling is still not as ideal as reuse.
What does reuse look like?
Throwing the term “reuse” out there could cause some to miss opportunities as to the true power of this concept. Using a phone as a phone for longer is one way of reuse, but where the power is really unleashed is when you see the intrinsic value of each device.
For instance, using smartphones as a video security system can put an older set of phones to work in a way that is practical for the business or home while saving costs. But the underlying factor is that reusing or upcycling those phones keeps them from the landfill while saving costs of purchasing a new video security system.
Another use of smartphones—if you have a ton—is to do some significant data mining, like Samsung did at the height of the first Bitcoin craze. Holding on to devices for trends and ideas to come back into fashion is not a bad idea. And now that news about cryptocurrency is resurfacing, you might want to pull those old phones out.
But is reuse hoarding?
The reason our culture watches shows like Hoarders is because we see a version of ourselves in each case. Think about it: we consume like it’s our job. Imagine if we didn’t throw the stuff we buy back at the planet after we’re done with it—what would our homes look like? Reuse differs from hoarding in that it’s being intentional about the things we own in such a way that we don’t have to purchase more things.
Reuse and upcycling replace expenditures and alleviates needs with the things you already own. That is always going to return on your initial investment. We forget how much value even old devices have when they are seen merely for their age rather than for their raw digital potential. As an example of seeing the real value, I have a laptop that is over ten years old that I can use for video games or as a designated processor to run my 3D printer.
Supercharging your reuse
To really get on board with reuse, you can augment your retired devices a bit, if you need. This lessens the overall sustainable value because you are buying more electronic components, but it still has the ongoing result of keeping e-waste from happening. Plus, by augmenting a devices’ OS and amping it up with a Raspberry Pi (mini motherboard) or similar processing device, the sky is the limit to what even defunct electronic devices can accomplish. It’s easy to see that with a little creativity, there is very little that would go to waste in your repertoire of electronics.
Create your own reuse story
Performing a quick search for “upcycling electronics” will lead you down a rabbit hole of ideas for what an old chassis, internal components, and even cables could be used for. Spinning the old adage “one person’s trash is another’s treasure,” this kind of reuse is taking what was once considered your own trash and turning it into treasure.
And finally, consider that broken or old things were once thought of as waste because of the way they were made, or because of what was left after their intended use was accomplished. In today’s market, however, devices are smarter, materials are better, and the value is deeper. We don’t have waste anymore, when it comes to the things we purchase today, we have assets. The question is, what can you do with your assets?