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The Restart Project Podcast

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Restart Radio: Right to Repair in the United States

In this week’s episode, Ugo and Janet interview Nathan Proctor, Director of US PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign. We talk about the origin and activity of this movement, and generally about our right to fix our devices. First, we discuss the story of Eric Lundgren, who attempted to distribute copies of Microsoft software allowing repairers and refurbishers to restore Windows installation in computers already licensed to use it. Even though this software is available online for free, and Lundgren’s only crime was counterfeiting the packaging, he’s been sentenced to 15 months of jail and he reported to a US federal prison last Friday. Nathan was recently in the news defending this case, which is helping spread the word about the right to repair movement. Nathan comments on the tension between copyright laws and repairing initiatives, and on how the charges against Lundgren have been excessive. Next, we talk about the origin and activity of the US Right to Repair campaign. They work to provide consumers and third party businesses with repair information, and to make pressure at state level on US law to ensure that we have the option to repair our devices. Nathan refers to the 2012 Massachusetts general elections when a citizen-initiated car’s right to repair measure led to the Automotive Right to Repair Law – forcing manufacturers to provide spare parts to mechanics. Janet highlights that, despite more silently, this regulation has also been achieved in the EU. Why are people starting to stand up for our right to repair? Nathan notes that there is an increasing awareness that we all have “a broken relationship with stuff”. He is convinced that this relationship is changing thanks to do-it-yourself (DIY) initiatives that motivate people to own and fix their devices. A few weeks ago, we interviewed Susanne Baker, from techUK, who argued that safety is a major issue that can constrain our right to repair. Nathan calls for more trust in the public, who should also be given access to official repair information from manufacturers to ensure safety. As he states, we need more and more people to join the repair movement if we want to change our throwaway culture and tackle the growing issue of electronic waste. Manufacturers promote this growing stream of waste by making their repair services too costly or unavailable, which leads most people to replace rather than repair their devices. As an example, he mentions the recent fine to Apple in Australia due to denying repair services to consumers who had previously taken their devices to third party repairers. Finally, Ugo mentions how the US Right to Repair movement focuses on third party repairers, while in the EU we have a lot more community repair initiatives, such ours at Restart. Nathan argues for more collaboration and coordination between these two actors. Janet refers to the Restart Centre in New York, where students and educators can also be seen as repair activists. Educators, tinkerers and third party repairers can all benefit from lower barriers to repair. And as Nathan argues, public involvement at the local level should help push right to repair regulations further. Links: iFixit: 11,000 signatures wasn’t enough to keep Eric Lundgren out of prison US PIRG: Right to repair Restart Radio: Right to Repair and product standards (interview with Susanne Baker) TechRadar: Apple fined $9 million for misleading Australian customers The post Restart Radio: Right to Repair in the United States appeared first on The Restart Project.


20 Jun 2018

Rank #1

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Restart Radio: Climate anxiety and deep adaptation

*Radio survey* We would really appreciate your thoughts on Restart Radio. Please take our short survey! We talk about the climate crisis and the concept of deep adaptation – the idea that we will need to radically change our lives in the face of global changes. From worker rights to Norway’s right to repair First, we discuss some news. Female workers at South Korean semiconductor plants are at much higher risks of leukemia and other cancers than their male counterparts. This research examined 201,057 current and former workers at six semiconductor companies, including Samsung Electronics. We also comment on the story of a Samsung LCD worker who has finally received “work accident” recognition 15 years after developing a brain tumour. On more positive news, we discuss plans from France to ban unsold electronics and clothes from being destroyed, as part of a new circular economy law. While we welcome this initiative we do wonder: what will happen to these products when destruction is banned? Lastly, we talk about latest right to repair news from Norway, where professional repairer Henrik Huseby met Apple in court for a second time, after Apple appealed losing in its lawsuit last year. Like Huseby, many repairers face barriers to get spare parts and have to use refurbished screens which Apple absurdly claims are ‘counterfeit’. The climate zeitgeist A climate emergency has been all over the news in the UK recently. From Sir David Attenborough taking a big stand on the climate, to Greta Thunberg’s visit to Parliament, to Extinction Rebellion’s protests. Different target dates have been set for net zero emissions, by different groups in the UK. (Since we recorded this episode, the UK became the first country to set a netzero target by law.) We explore this current climate crisis and then talk about the concept of “Deep Adaptation” – the idea that we will need to radically change our lives in the face of global changes. What will our life, and that of future generations, look like in 10 years? Then, we play a clip from Restart Party goers sharing their views on the latest climate science. These include a fear that we will not have the resources to maintain our way of living, and suggest that we will need to extend the lifespan of the products and materials that we buy. They also point to the sometimes confusing balance between where responsibility should lie: is it about focusing on the micro-actions or about pushing governments for high-level change? Inspired by Mary Heglar’s essay on sustainability and personal action, we talk about the power in magnifying our individual acts, and escalating our everyday frustrations to seek change. And while we must work urgently to avoid run-away climate change, we conclude that we also need to start envisioning what a radically changed world will look like, and what we will lose. (We ran out of time and didn’t do the topic of “Deep Adaptation” justice at all. But we’ve added some more links below that go into greater depth on the topic.) Links: Restart: Radio survey Restart: Taking care of resources in fair, net-zero economy Hankyoreh: Female workers at semiconductor plants face greater risk of leukemia and death Hankyoreh: Samsung LCD worker receives industrial accident recognition 15 years after developing brain tumor The Telegraph: France ban unsold clothes electronics destroyed world first VICE: Apple is still trying to sue the owner of an independent repair shop Louis Rossmann: Witness in Norway trial Vox: Mary Heglar on the environmental movement and personal action Jem Bendell’s website, focusing on “Deep Adaptation” Restart: How to Restart the World with Lewis Dartnell [Featured imaged from Extinction Rebellion] The post Restart Radio: Climate anxiety and deep adaptation appeared first on The Restart Project.


13 Jun 2019

Rank #2

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Restart Podcast Ep. 48: Henrik versus Goliath Corporation

We interview Norwegian professional repairer Henrik Huseby about his court battle against Apple, which will reach Norway’s Supreme Court next year. In 2017, Norwegian customs officials seized 63 imported, refurbished mobile screens destined for Huseby. He runs a very small repair shop in a town just outside of Oslo. Apple alleged the screens were “counterfeit”. Apple demanded Huseby sign an unfair letter, admitting to wrong-doing. He refused. He won in his first court appearance, but Apple then won in a court of appeals. Huseby was not deterred and took the extraordinary step of appealing to the Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear his case in 2020. Huseby runs his business alone and he’s trusted by local police, who repair their phones with him. We talk to him about his small town, his work and how he got into it, and why he decided to stand up against a trillion dollar company. His case has everything to do with defending a “right to repair”, as Apple is strictly controlling access to spare parts. This has consequences small repair businesses globally as well as DIYers. As Huseby points out, Apple is using obscure copyright claims as its “weapon” in this attempt to cut off supply of spare parts. Understandably, Huseby is crowdfunding to cover his legal costs. If he wins and Apple is forced to pay his costs, he has committed to donating all funds to the new European Right to Repair campaign. Thanks to Restarters Oslo and Maja van der Velden who’ve helped us follow this case over the past year. Links: • Henrik Huseby’s crowdfunder • European Right to Repair campaign • “We All Lose in the Case that Apple Won” University of Oslo The post Restart Podcast Ep. 48: Henrik versus Goliath Corporation appeared first on The Restart Project.


17 Dec 2019

Rank #3

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Restart Radio: Popular, planet-saving right to repair

We interview Libby Peake, Senior policy adviser at Green Alliance. We talk about the public interest in more repairable products, and we discuss the current policy debates affecting our right to repair in Europe and the UK. First, we discuss some news. Apple is worried about the decline in iPhone sales: the company has reported to investors that this is partly due to users repairing and maintaining their current models. We also mention the recent controversy over ‘Veganuary’ with the new vegan sausage roll at Greggs, which could face a backlash against environmental awareness. Next, we comment on the current European vote on design measures for dishwashers and washing machines. As Libby highlights, previously related measures around so-called ‘ecodesign’ have normally focused on energy efficiency, looking at how much energy products consume, rather than how long they last. This legislation is now shifting to also include product efficiency, that is, design changes that improve durability, repairability, recyclability and product composition. This shift can raise product standards, and it pushes us to look at efficiency over the whole of a product’s lifecycle. Citizens are asking for products that last longer, and this is clear in the Green Alliance’s recent report ‘By popular demand’. Libby tells us about this research, which resulted from several workshops and an extensive poll with over 1000 people in the UK. Almost all respondents welcomed a better use of resources in our economy. The most supported initiative was to improve product design, and this included making things more modular so that they can be easier to repair! Then, we talk about the need to keep pushing environmental legislation to prioritise product repairability. Our stuff should be designed to be easier to disassemble and repair, and everyone – not just professionals – should have access to spare parts. We also talk about the new UK Waste Strategy, the first one in more than 10 years. We find it ambitious and focused on the 3 Rs (not just recycling!). It defends an extended responsibility for manufacturers to watch their products lifecycle. However, we miss more details on how this high-level strategy will be implemented. Finally, we share how we would like to see a scenario where our right to repair could benefit both companies and consumers. Policymakers need to guide manufacturers to ensure sustainable technology, as it happened for instance with the harmonisation of phone chargers driven by the European Commission. Links: Green Alliance: Libby Peake Green Alliance: ‘By popular demand: What people want from a resource efficient economy’ [report] The Restart Project: Defending the right to repair in Brussels Motherboard: People bought fewer new iPhones because they repaired their old ones The Guardian: Greggs struggles to keep up with demand for vegan sausage rolls The Restart Project: Compelling evidence that citizens want repairable products [Featured image from Coolproducts] The post Restart Radio: Popular, planet-saving right to repair appeared first on The Restart Project.


10 Jan 2019

Rank #4

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Restart Podcast Ep. 36: Fixing the impossible with Rico Cerva

We interview independent professional repairer Rico Cerva, to celebrate the crucial contribution that repair businesses make to extend the life of all the gadgets we use. We talk about the personal stories behind people’s devices, the barriers to repair caused by manufacturers and the future of repair as a profession. On Saturday 20 October we celebrated Repair Day worldwide, with over 150 events that gathered people to fix together. Repair Day is about making repair more visible, and it includes the work of community groups but also that of independent repair professionals, like Rico. We are in Rico’s family home in Basildon, where he has set up his fixing lab. A typical work day for Rico is ‘like opening Christmas presents every morning’. He gets his orders through the post from individuals and repair shops worldwide, and he fixes them all on the same day (sometimes over 10 phones). Most of the faults he repairs have to do with dead phones, no longer switching on. Some present extraordinary challenges, like his successful data recovery from an iPhone X – which had been destroyed by a baboon or a chimpanzee! View this post on Instagram A post shared by Rico Cerva (@federicocerva) This year’s edition of Repair Day focused on our Right to Repair what we own. In line with this movement, Rico tells us about the barriers he faces when repairing devices. One example is the lack of publicly available schematics for Apple devices: if published they would ease the diagnosis of faults. Another example is the home button in iPhone 7 and beyond, which can’t be replaced by users but rather only by Apple! Although he is only 23, Rico already claims ‘to fix the impossible’. Rico tells us how he became interested in repair when his dad smashed his PlayStation with the car. Rico managed to get it back to life, and from then he wouldn’t stop tinkering with and fixing other people’s devices. He then moved to the UK from his home in Cyprus and worked in remanufacturing, running quality control on smartphones, and from there he eventually started working as a fixer at iSmash. In his free time, he would do fixes at home, shared through Instagram, concentrating on what repair businesses normally can’t do and ultimately decided to become fully independent with his own repair business. Rico is also passionate about sharing his fixing skills – he regularly runs microsoldering workshops and he also trains other professionals from repair businesses at his home in Basildon. Finally, Rico takes us through a repair in action, fixing the famous touch IC disease on an iPhone 7 (where the device switches on but gets stuck on the Apple logo screen). We open up the phone, we explore its components and we manage to fix the audio chip responsible for the fault. Links: Open Repair Alliance: International Repair Day grows massively in second year Open Repair Alliance: About Repair Day Instagram: Federico Cerva iFixit: iPhone 7 home buttons aren’t user replaceable Motherboard and Forbes on iPhone 7 audio IC Rico Cerva’s Youtube channel: How To Fix The iPhone 7/7 plus Apple Loop Disease/Speaker and Microphone Greyed! The post Restart Podcast Ep. 36: Fixing the impossible with Rico Cerva appeared first on The Restart Project.


24 Oct 2018

Rank #5

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Restart Radio: The overlooked but fascinating world of standards

Janet, James and Restarter Ben Skidmore talk about the overlooked but fascinating world of product standards, and how they affect our right to repair devices. To learn more about standards, we hear from Chloe Fayole from ECOS, the European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation. Before diving into standards, we discuss some recent news. To start, we celebrate Fixfest Italia, the first national community repair gathering in Italy. James tells us about his time at the event, and how exciting it was to meet people in the Italian network. We also comment on the recent near-hysteria around plans of a Huawei 5G network rollout in the UK. Product standards: the power of industry During the show, we play our prerecorded interview with Chloe Fayole, who walks us through the world of standards at European level. Standards define guidelines for products or processes. They are not legislation per se, however, they are increasingly used as a tool to implement new legislation and policies. Therefore, Chloe warns, it is crucial to be aware of how industry-dominated standards are, and the need for more voices to be represented. People want more repairable products, and the product standards developed at European level can affect the repairability and lifetime of our devices. Chloe talks about the importance of creating standards both in a horizontal way (for all products), which could include ease of disassembly or the provision of spare parts for a minimum of years, but also product-specific, going into the detail and particularities of each device. Reclaiming the citizens’ voice Product standards and our right to repair are closely linked. However, contributing to the discussion around product standards demands a lot of time and technical skills, and these conversations are heavily industry-dominated. So how can citizens be heard? People have a role in expressing themselves and their expectations of products, adding the consumer perspective to the conversation. As an example, Chloe talks about ‘making obsolescence a scandal’ and reporting it, but also about the importance of gathering data to know the barriers experienced by consumers when trying to repair what they own. We also stress the need to include professional repairers in the conversation, given their direct expertise with repairability and issues affecting product lifetimes. Links: Chloe Faloye ECOS Restart: Compelling evidence that people want repairable products Restart: New Right to Repair rules, broken down by a pro The Boring Conference: About The Verge: The UK gets its first official 5G launch date The post Restart Radio: The overlooked but fascinating world of standards appeared first on The Restart Project.


16 May 2019

Rank #6

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Restart Radio: The Iridium anomaly, your mobile and the dinosaurs

Coinciding nicely with the first image of a black hole, this April is Space Month on Restart Radio, where both our live show and podcast will be space-themed. In this show, we talk to Jessika Luth Richter, a circular economy researcher at Lund University in Sweden, and we learn about the relationship between raw materials and space, including the ‘Iridium anomaly’. First, we chat about tech news. From the recent Apple GiveBack trade-in programme to their leaking of plans to respond to Right to Repair pressure, to the hijacking of ASUS software updates or the risks of ‘smartphone zombies’ – are you one of them? Discovering Iridium: from mobiles to dinosaurs During the show, we learn about a very particular chemical element: Iridium (Ir). While Iridium is very rare on the Earth’s crust, it is found on much higher concentrations (around 100 times higher) on an internal Earth layer, the one marking the boundary in geological times of 66 million years ago. So where could this metal have come from? The hypothesis is: from an asteroid, which could also have triggered the extinction of dinosaurs. Next we talk more about this element and discuss some of its current uses today. Despite its rarity, Iridium is used in the manufacturing of electrical contacts, certain electrical wires and electrodes. It can also be found in smartphones with OLED displays. Given its great properties for industry and tech, alongside its scarcity and supply risks (85% is mined only in South Africa), Iridium is a critical material. Space mining and environmental cost Could we get raw materials from space, like Iridium from meteorites? Rare earth elements from the moon? We talk about space mining, and how, despite various efforts, this seems still far away. The further we want to reach out in space, we will have to face questions of infrastructure, how we are getting there and back to Earth. We talk about space missions, Space X and people’s dreams to travel outside Earth. Be it for mining or for passenger travel, we reflect on the environmental cost of travelling to space. While space exploration inspired the environmental movement when we were able to see Earth from outer space, we still need to think about how we use materials on Earth. Or will we mine materials from space, for them to simply become waste? *As part of Space month, both our live show and podcast will be space-themed. Watch out for our Space podcast at the end of the month!* Links: Lund University: Jessika Luth Richter Restart Radio [our previous podcast with Jessika]: Critical materials in our electronics Apple GiveBack The Guardian: Students accused of cheating Apple out of nearly $1m in fake iPhone scheme Motherboard: Hackers hijacked ASUS software updates to install backdoors on thousands of computers  Reuters: South Korea radar and thermal camera system warns ‘smartphone zombies’ of traffic Motherboard: Internal documents show Apple is capable of implementing Right to Repair legislation Chemistry Explained: Iridium The Guardian: Black hole picture captured for the first time in space Phys.org: OLED Screens Asterank [a database of 600,00 asteroids] [Featured image of Eros asteroid by NASA/NEAR Project (JHU/APL) in Wikipedia] The post Restart Radio: The Iridium anomaly, your mobile and the dinosaurs appeared first on The Restart Project.


11 Apr 2019

Rank #7

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Restart Radio: New Right to Repair rules, broken down by a pro

In December and January, European member states approved groundbreaking measures which ensured that appliances (dishwashers, fridges, and washing machines) become more repairable. But as always, the devil is in the detail. After much celebration and fanfare about the new European regulations guaranteeing some “right to repair” for consumers, we needed to chat with Steve the Spindoctor. Steve runs solo business in South London, tirelessly saving appliances from the shredder. His work is relentless. He has little time for BS and he understands every angle of running a professional repair business. The new ecodesign regulations have professional repairers as their intended targets: they call for manufacturers to provide spare parts and repair documentation to professionals. It all sounds so good. But our interview with Steve feels like a tour of terrible caveats. Spare parts and “bundling” Steve confirms that sealed drums – and the “bundling” of drums and ball bearings – is the main reason washing machines are not fixable. The regulation does nothing to fix this. And a similar problem is arising with the heating systems on dish washers. Generally speaking, the cost of spare parts is the main obstacle to many repairs. Software and circuit boards We ask about software and circuit boards, as pros will have increased access to both. But access to software powering these appliances is no real revolution for Steve. And what about guaranteed access to spare printed circuit boards within 15 working days for pros? Without a warranty on these, and quicker access to them, this is no game-changer for the Spindoctor. As he asks, what family can wait 15 working days for their washing machine to be fixed? Design for disassembly On the bright side, design for disassembly is indeed a major win for Steve. He hopes it will reduce his time opening up machines, and thereby make more repairs viable. He also hopes that this public interest will lead people to maintain and care for their appliances better. Links: World Economic Forum: A New Circular Vision for Electronics, Time for a Global Reboot Restart’s London Repair Directory Steve the Spindoctor’s webpage Our original two-part podcast with Steve the Spindoctor (1, 2) Our analysis of the new Right to Repair measures Analysis of the ecodesign regulations by Cool Products [Feature image courtesy of UK Whitegoods] The post Restart Radio: New Right to Repair rules, broken down by a pro appeared first on The Restart Project.


15 Feb 2019

Rank #8

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Restart Podcast Ep 33: The lives of products during our lifetime, with Tim Cooper

In this week’s episode, we interview Tim Cooper, professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption at Nottingham Trent University. We discuss the public’s frustration about our throwaway culture, and the role of businesses and regulation in making our products last longer. First, we discuss Cooper’s path into academia. Since the late 1970s up to 1994, he was very active in the Green Party, and stood for parliament in three occasions. Searching for alternative ways to make an impact, Cooper pursued research with a strong policy orientation, starting at then-new thinktank the New Economics Foundation. In the early 1990s, much of the academic work on sustainability was focused on promoting recycling rather than incineration. Less work dealt with the ‘waste hierarchy’ – optimising our use of things and minimising waste, instead of just disposing or recycling. Cooper’s 1994 report ‘Beyond Recycling’ (link below) gained national publicity in this context. After that, Cooper moved to university research, where he joined other academics in the study of product lifetimes, and of how we can make products last longer. Cooper talks about what influences our decision-making when buying, and his research on consumer magazines, which have focused more on product features like shape, colour or size than durability. Also, once shamed, some manufacturers come up with unconvincing excuses for short product lifetimes. In light of this, consumer organisations should put pressure on government to increase public awareness of how long products will – and should – last. He also suggests measures like lifespan labelling or repairability indexes, as ways to inform consumers on repairabilty and durability. Now, are people familiar with the concept of throwaway culture? Of course! We play some clips from Restart Parties, where many attendees feel frustrated about their faulty devices, and about the wastefulness of today’s consumption. People are generally interested in how long things last, and in getting value for money. Now Cooper argues that with devices getting cheaper and cheaper, many people lose interest in recycling or repairing – they stop ‘treating things with respect’. However, Cooper is wary of the notion that individuals should simply change their behaviours to solve the problem. He says businesses and governments have a significant role in making products last longer, and there is a need to shift what we seek to achieve as societies, beyond GDP, and look at other measures including well-being and the planet. Links: Nottingham Trent University (NTU): Tim Cooper The New Economics Foundation: About us NTU’s Institutional Repository: Beyond Recycling [Featured image by Flickr user Sascha Pohflepp] The post Restart Podcast Ep 33: The lives of products during our lifetime, with Tim Cooper appeared first on The Restart Project.


26 Jun 2018

Rank #9

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Restart Radio: Materials we use to hack and fix

In this week’s episode, Isabel Lopez and Dave Lukes talk about the materials we use to hack and fix. We will discuss the most basic tools and materials we can use for these tasks, from the usual tapes and glues to more sophisticated techniques and materials. First we discuss some news. Jessa Jones, a popular repairer based in the US, has had 24 aftermarket iPhone screens seized at US Customs. US Customs and Apple have justified this seizure by labelling it as ‘counterfeit’. They have called attention to the Apple logo in these screens – a very tiny logo inside them which is not visible to consumers. Now, is refurbishing the same as counterfeiting? The overarching question here is: why are these repairers getting spare parts from third parties or the ‘grey market’? We talk about the Right to Repair movement, in which Jessa Jones is particularly active. As she insists, she would rather buy spare parts directly from Apple, but this is not a possibility. Car manufacturers are obliged to make spare parts available – and at reasonable cost – to car repairers, why is this not the case with our electronic devices? Next, we talk about stuff we use to repair. We start with screwdrivers, which are one of the most basic tools to carry around. We mention issues with opening up our devices, such as Apple’s pentalobe screws, or the change in design of our laptops and phones that makes it way harder to take out and replace their batteries. Then, we talk about ‘sticky’ materials. Dave tells us about the use of tapes, (super)glues, or more fancy materials such as Sugru, a very mouldable silicone-based material which can be used for multiple hacks and fixes; or the bioplastic Formcard, which can be easily carried out in our wallet and, once heated up, can be moulded into any shape and then reheated for reuse. We then shift to more complex techniques, such as soldering. Soldering is used to join two pieces of metal together by melting a tin wire (or ‘solder’). Soldering irons heat up the solder up to 200 degrees so it becomes liquid. We talk about alternatives to this technique, such as cold soldering or crimped copper tubing. Dave also discusses some incidents – great narratives that even made our Resonance 104.4 FM engineer laugh – and important health and safety procedures. Finally, we give some advice to those of you who want to get started fixing things. Beyond the joy of getting things working again, at Restart we want devices to keep working for longer to reduce the environmental impact of electronic waste. Links: Motherboard: DHS seizes aftermarket iPhone screens from prominent right-to-repair advocate Motherboard: Apple sued an independent iPhone repair shop owner and lost Jessa Jones’ iPad Rehab YouTube channel Sugru: Tech & gadget – the best tech hacks right now The Guardian: Bioplastic encourages people to mend, not replace [on FORMcard] Restart Wiki [Featured image by Sugru] The post Restart Radio: Materials we use to hack and fix appeared first on The Restart Project.


16 May 2018

Rank #10

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Restart Podcast Ep. 43: A life in art, activism and electronic waste with Ravi Agarwal

*Last call to complete our radio survey. Closing soon on the 3rd of July!* Ravi Agarwal is a multifaceted artist and activist based in New Delhi. We hear Ravi’s reflections on his life between disciplines, and we learn about the work of his NGO, Toxics Link. We talk about the toxicity of e-waste and the threats it poses to people working in recycling sites. Ravi’s activism and Toxics Link Ravi tells us about the start of his activism when as an avid birdwatcher, he helped lead a campaign to protect the Delhi forest. Moved by his capacity to work for change, he then got interested in waste issues and eventually founded Toxics Link. Toxics Link was a pioneer organisation researching electronic waste in India, as well as influencing the first national e-waste legislation in India. They also focus on all other kinds of waste streams, from plastics to municipal waste or biomedical waste. Electronic waste and human health Ravi walks us through toxic materials in e-waste. There are almost 50 of them in various ranges of toxicity. From heavy metals like lead or mercury to flame retardants. (The latter are chemicals present in plastics which protect cases from fire, however they can cause cancer when released from the case). So when electronics are not recycled properly, these toxic components can become very threatening to human health and the environment, and particularly to workers in recycling sites in India. Ravi tells us about the associated long-term health effects that result from the exposure to these toxic materials, which can also be passed on to their children, for instance through breastfeeding. Merging art and activism We hear about Ravi’s solo show ‘Ecologies of Loss’ where he examines how people relate to their environment. We talk about the reception of Ravi’s work, both in India and worldwide, and we reflect on his way of balancing his art and activism. Ravi describes himself as an artist, photographer, environmental campaigner, writer and curator. While seemingly complex, he says that all these processes inform each other – in his own words, “we all inhabit the world in many forms at the same time”. Links: Restart: Radio survey Ravi Agarwal Toxics Link Ravi: Ecologies of Loss [Featured image by Ravi Agarwal] The post Restart Podcast Ep. 43: A life in art, activism and electronic waste with Ravi Agarwal appeared first on The Restart Project.


27 Jun 2019

Rank #11

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Restart Podcast Ep. 37: Voices of UK fixers

Fixfest UK gathered 59 community repair activists from all across the country, representing 25 different repair groups. This event was all about sharing the love for fixing, as well as common visions and opportunities for collaborations. With the day’s theme of ‘Hope’, many ideas emerged to work for sustainable and impactful repair action in our communities. In this episode, we talk to some of Fixfest UK participants, who share their experiences. They talk about their group’s work, their motivations and aims. This was the first Fixfest UK, after last year’s international edition, and it happened in Manchester, the home of the first atom splitting, first co-op store, and first programmable computer. The event started with a warm-up session led by our podcaster Dave Pickering. It is unusual to be surrounded by so many other people who run community repair groups in their communities, and that is what makes Fixfest so unique. Throughout the day, participants attended and ran multiple sessions, covering topics ranging from hands-on skillshares to policy discussions around our Right to Repair. We also had an unexpected repair on site! There was an ‘out of order’ sign on the toilet at the venue which led to some participants performing some good ‘guerrilla repair’. Participants also shared some of their most memorable repair stories, some featuring a porcelain bunny, a radio or a hedge trimmer. Others commented on the best moments of Fixfest: from visualising community repair events as sites for social change to promoting more inclusive fixing spaces. Also at Fixfest, 25 community repair groups drafted the Manchester Declaration, which brings together the grassroots frustration experienced by people at our events, when they realise that their products are breaking long before they should. Links: The Restart Project: Inspired and energised from Fixfest UK The Restart Project: Fixers and organisers, time to join our platform (Restarters.net) The Manchester Declaration Photo album (photos of the day by Mark Phillips) The post Restart Podcast Ep. 37: Voices of UK fixers appeared first on The Restart Project.


28 Nov 2018

Rank #12

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Restart Radio: Greening the internet with Greenpeace

We interview Andrew Hatton, Head of IT at Greenpeace UK. We talk about the environmental implications of using the Internet and Greenpeace’s campaign on the topic. First, we discuss a vote by members states of the European Union (EU) on new measures which can have crucial implications for the repairability of our products. Along with other organisations, we coordinated a “welcoming committee” in Brussels in front of the EU Council: the first ever protest for our right to repair, at least in Europe. Also in tech news: Amazon will start selling Apple products directly on its platform and, in return, small refurbishers not authorised by Apple will be kicked out of the online store. This level of control by such powerful companies is deeply worrying. The episode focuses on Greenpeace and their longstanding campaigning for a greener Internet. Back in 2012, the organisation was already focused on this issue – they published a report and they protested at the Apple store in Regent Street, London. Pretending to be Apple staff, the so-called ‘Apple geniuses’, they informed customers about Apple’s excessive reliance on coal for its cloud services. Cloud services include the vast array of online platforms we use daily to work, share files or watch movies (such as iCloud, Google Drive or Netflix). Given their massive traffic, we need to put pressure on the big companies enabling these services to adopt more sustainable practices, such as shifting to renewable energies. Companies need to be critical about where their energy comes from and about their plans for a greener cloud. These practices are analysed by Greenpeace, resulting in their striking scorecards. These rank companies according to criteria such as their energy supply, transparency around energy use and sources, and advocacy. Andrew emphasises the importance of companies pushing for change, highlighting Google or Salesforce as leaders, and others like Amazon as ‘laggards’. In 2019, Greenpeace will publish an updated report examining the current ranking of companies’ data centres – the engines that power cloud services. They look particularly at Virginia (United States) as the ‘data centre capital’ of the world. It has been estimated that around 70% of Internet traffic passes through Virginia’s data centres. Still, there are not many alternatives today to using these online services, and even organisations like Greenpeace need to make compromises. Andrew takes us through some of these tensions, for instance when buying IT equipment or choosing cloud providers, and how they try to select the most sustainable suppliers. We also talk about the pressure from the tech industry to weaken legislation that could push for greener tech. We too share our frustration with manufacturers as they keep lobbying against our right to repair what we own. Finally, we comment on the hardware, on the importance of upgrading the devices that power data centres. These servers components are devices with a massive embodied energy, so we should make sure that they keep running for long, and that they are easier to upgrade and repair. Links: Twitter: Andrew Hatton The Restart Project: First protest for the right to repair in Brussels Boing Boing: The EU could give every European the #RightToRepair Motherboard: Amazon is kicking out all unauthorised Apple refurbishers off Amazon The Independent: Greenpeace targets Apple London store Greenpeace: Clicking Clean [link to their 2017 report] [Featured image shared by Wikipedia user Jhaxhillari] The post Restart Radio: Greening the internet with Greenpeace appeared first on The Restart Project.


13 Dec 2018

Rank #13

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Restart Podcast Ep. 39: Repair and autonomy in a networked world

The design of technology and technological systems has deep consequences for our use of products and services. Alison Powell, Assistant Professor at LSE, researches our understanding and building of technology, from a social perspective, and how technological systems in turn change the way we work and live together. Powell spoke at our inaugural Fixfest in 2017 alongside Kyle Wiens of iFixit, and we’d been meaning to invite her onto our podcast since. In this episode, we discuss links between design, innovation and our right to repair. A question of rights, plural As Powell suggests, we can think of the right to repair as a right to have autonomy. The right to know how our devices work and the autonomy to make decisions like modifying them or fixing them if they break. Her earlier work on open hardware informs her perspectives on autonomy and its possibilities. We talk about repairability as a great example of information asymmetry – as manufacturers have control over repair manuals and spare parts, they restrict the capacity of people to understand and fix their products. A right to audit, and to revert One way of gaining more control over our products could be to track changes in the way our stuff works. This is what Powell calls “auditability”. What happens if a product or service changes so much that you no longer want it? Shouldn’t you have the right to say ‘I don’t want this anymore’? As an example, we talk about software in Android smartphones, where there is no way, unless you are very technically confident and skilled, to go back to the old version after accepting an update. Powell suggests that a ‘right to revert’ could also be part of our set of rights to repair. Discussing security Part of Powell’s work is focused on the design of Internet-connected devices, through the Virt-EU project. From her conversations with developers, she highlights the tension in balancing openness and security when designing consumer technology. Closed systems can be more efficient and more resistant to security threats, however, they can enhance the information asymmetries that limit our right(s) to repair. As an example, we talk about Apple’s controversial T2 chip, which could contain a ‘kill switch‘, disabling devices repaired by third parties. Without discounting the challenges of security in our increasingly networked world, Powell maintains that security features cannot be an excuse to hold excessive control over the devices we use. She pushes us not only to demand autonomy to decide how we might tinker with or repair our products, but to seek out gaps in the market and opportunities that this autonomy can create. Links: LSE: Alison Powell Alison’s blog VirtEU Project Alison Powell was a speaker at Fixfest 2017 Restart Project: Right to Repair The post Restart Podcast Ep. 39: Repair and autonomy in a networked world appeared first on The Restart Project.


1 Mar 2019

Rank #14

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Restart Radio: Right to repair and product standards beyond Brexit

In this week’s episode, Ugo interviews Susanne Baker, Head of Environment & Compliance at techUK, the organisation representing the views of tech companies, including manufacturers. We discuss their position on the public’s growing interest in the right to repair and the future of product standards beyond Brexit. First, Ugo asks about techUK’s views on product lifetimes. Susanne discusses how tech manufacturers are increasingly interested in the concept of material efficiency. As she explains, this can include many factors about products, such as how easy they are to repair, upgrade, reuse or recycle. We see this as a positive development, although we will need a lot of developments to reduce the amount of e-waste currently being shredded. Susanne discusses how the right to repair should be encouraged in the UK, although manufacturers are concerned with product safety, specifically in regards to repairs involving counterfeit parts. On this topic, she mentions the Electrical Safety First’s report on the risk of electrical shocks with fake iPhone chargers. Some techUK members are also increasing the number of repair options they offer, for instance Samsung’s new doorstep repair. This is an area where we have diverging views: the presence of counterfeit parts should be an incentive for manufacturers to make parts and accessories readily available to the public, rather than an argument to limit the right to repair. According to Susanne, it is too costly for manufacturers to maintain extensive provision of parts for a long time, and at times they are limited in doing so by changing regulations on the safety of chemicals used in these parts. She then shares some of techUK’s recommendations for repair, such as using 3d printers to reduce costs of producing small spare parts, or the potential of home automation to detect faults in our devices. She also highlights the major role that EU ecodesign policy might have on the cost and time of provision of spare parts, potentially by requiring manufacturers to provide parts as part of extended warranties. Ugo comments that manufacturers have data that could help them plan for sufficient availability of parts – and that just-in-time manufacturing can reduce cost of provision of parts. Ugo and Susanne then discuss how Brexit may impact UK product standards. The current round of EU ecodesign legislation should be approved by this winter (that is, before Brexit, and therefore should be implemented in UK policy). Susanne says that it is in the interest of UK manufacturers to have the same product standards across Europe, and that the UK government is already addressing issues of product durability in various other industrial and environmental strategies. Finally, we touch upon the importance of providing software updates and security patches for products in order to extend product lifetimes, an issue unfortunately not yet prioritised by techUK. Links: techUK: Susanne Baker techUK: Environment compliance Whatis – Tech target: Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing US PIRG: Right to Repair Electrical Safety First: 98% of fake iPhone chargers puts consumers at risk Samsung Newsroom UK: Launch of new Samsung doorstep repair service [Featured image by Flickr user fdecomite] The post Restart Radio: Right to repair and product standards beyond Brexit appeared first on The Restart Project.


6 Jun 2018

Rank #15

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Restart Radio Takeover: ‘Smart’ homes – the hype and worries about IoT

Our volunteers Dave, Panda and Andrew run the show, discussing the hype about the Internet of Things (IoT) and ‘smart’ homes. We talk about related issues of security when using these connected devices. First, Dave takes us through some tech news. We start citing some recent research into batteries that could be charged faster, and also Trump’s support for the merger of US TV stations Sinclair and Tribune Media. We then talk about how in South Korea Samsung has finally agreed to accept arbitration over the leukemia cases affecting workers at its plans, first reported 10 years ago. This is a longstanding problem with other electronics companies as well, associated with the toxic chemicals used in manufacturing gadgets. We then turn to the recent Huawei’s PR-stunt: people were promised a free Huawei smartphone in return for just literally smashing their ‘old’ (non-Huawei) ones at their Soho store in London. Not only is this mindless consumption but an awful contribution to the growing problem of ewaste (see our post below). Our volunteers also warn that hammering these phones could also be quite unsafe due to the risk of explosions when mishandling their lithium batteries. Next, we talk about the Internet of Things (or, as Panda referred to, ‘the Internet of Sh*t‘) and smart homes. Andrew shares how back in the 2000s, before these products were commercialised, he set up a smart home himself. Having to spend much time abroad for work, he wanted a system to keep track of his home remotely, or to switch on the heating on his way back. We also talk about how doing things yourself makes you very invested in the technology – Andrew managed to reduce his electricity bill by 55%! Also, not relying on a company gives him more control over his data, and he doesn’t have to worry about companies’ system failures, which can temporarily leave costumers without control or even access to their homes. We then reflect on questions of durability and security of IoT devices: how long will connected gadgets last? How long will they be supported with security updates? While these technologies have potential benefits such as using our electricity more efficiently, we need to be aware of associated risks related to security. For example, the mere usage of these devices can leak much information, to the extent that researchers have found a link between smart meters tracking and what TV shows you watch! More worryingly, there is the threat of other people taking control of your devices. For example the InControl app available to Jaguar Land Rover car users, which could be used by former owners if not unbound, potentially tracking or unlocking the car’s doors. We also discuss the issue of ‘IoT gaslighting’: some people are reporting having their house controlled by ex-partners: lighting, heating or even door locks. Also, disconnecting the devices can lead to further violence by the abuser. We end up discussing what is a ‘smart’ device. Our gadgets are becoming more technologically advanced, yet connected devices are part of a network which can be hacked. Not to mention other not-so-advanced devices, such as smart locks, which can be hacked using Bluetooth, or just… a screwdriver! Links: Restart Radio: Huawei’s smashing spectacle of planetary significance Hankyoreh: Samsung’s acceptance of offer by arbitration committee likely influenced by vice chairman’s upcoming trial The Guardian: Cheap material could radically improve battery charging speed Bloomberg: Trump’s meddling in Sinclair deal puts FCC in tight spot The Register: Shock Land Rover Discovery: sellers could meddle with connected cars if not unbound Twitter: Internet of Shit Cnet: Researchers find smart meters could reveal favorite TV shows Ruhr-Universität Bochum: Multimedia Content Identification Through Smart Meter Power Usage Profiles  The Register: Unbreakable smart lock devastated to discover screwdrivers exist Restart Radio: Connected device of horrors Youtube: Terence Eden – The (connected) house of horrors The New York Times: Thermostats, Locks and Lights – Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse [Featured image from Circuit Basics] The post Restart Radio Takeover: ‘Smart’ homes – the hype and worries about IoT appeared first on The Restart Project.


1 Aug 2018

Rank #16

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Restart Radio: Protecting our personal data in an age of connected devices

In this week’s episode, Janet, Ugo and Dave Lukes discuss our personal data being collected and held elsewhere, focusing on the new EU regulation on data protection and its effect on consumer rights. We focus on ‘connected devices’, where increasing amounts of our personal data are collected and stored by companies. There are potentially wider, positive implications of the new rules in relation to the lifecycle of these devices. But first, May 1st is International Workers’ Day in many countries. We celebrated it by discussing news of the Global Day of Action Against Samsung. A network of organisations called for the protection of their electronics factory workers, who have been and may continue to be exposed to dangerous chemicals. They are asking Samsung to stop attempting to suppress information on chemicals used, to use safer ones, and to ensure workers’ right to organise independently. Also on Samsung, a US class action lawsuit alleges that the company has teamed up with two other major DRAM memory manufacturers (who have a total marketshare of 96%) to raise the price of their products. Next we discuss the GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation (acronym botched by Janet!), which will be enforced on 25th May by the EU. GDPR has to do with the current emails you may be getting from companies or organisations asking you to remain on their email lists. Dave explains the regulation has a strong focus on protecting our personal data, that is: any information that could be used to identify someone. We talk about one of its main principles: about consent. According to GDPR, we all need to be fully and explicitly informed about how our personal data is being used. Then, we talk about the importance of GDPR in the context of ‘connected devices’. First we have a laugh about inscrutable terms and conditions of products, such as those of Amazon Kindle: it took an actor 8h 59 mins to read them all! Clearly, in the age of GDPR, user-centred terms and conditions will become the rule for these connected devices and appliances, which may soon include household appliances. We use Samsung “smart” TVs as an example, revealing that already there is a divergence between Samsung privacy policies for European (UK) consumers and the rest of the world. Finally, we reflect on how mandatory, increased attention to the lifecycle of personal data can influence the lifecycle of our devices. With companies accountable for protecting our information, they may have to ensure that our gadgets remain safe of data breaches or hacks, and we hope this implies extending security updates over longer periods of time. Links: Change.org: Global day of action against Samsung Change.org: Call on Samsung to protect workers Gizmodo: Class action lawsuit alleges price-fixing scheme by DRAM manufacturers Youtube – Choice: How long to read Amazon Kindle’s terms and conditions Cnet: Samsung’s warning: our smart TVs record your living room chatter Samsung: Privacy Policy Restart: Privacy policy The post Restart Radio: Protecting our personal data in an age of connected devices appeared first on The Restart Project.


2 May 2018

Rank #17

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Restart Podcast Ep 32: Amateur (ham) radio with Alvin Hardy

Ellie and Dave interview Restart volunteer Alvin Hardy (call-sign G1BTF), who shares his life-long passion for amateur or so-called “ham” radio. We discuss the importance of radio as a pioneering mode of communication, and the value of the worldwide community that it helps bring together. First, Alvin tells us about his career as an engineer, and how he’s been tinkering with radio since he was 15. He also comments on his dad as an inspiration to his interest in radio, as he was a radio operator during war. Next, Alvin tours as around his house in Rainham, London, taking us through his radio equipment: HF, VHF and of course ham radio. He tell us about the origin of ham or amateur radio in the early 1900s in Columbia University, where its founders opened up this invention so that others could help develop it. Now retired, Alvin regularly volunteers at Restart Parties. He tell us about his motivations to do so, saying that in the current throwaway culture, younger generations don’t see a need to repair their gadgets. He wants to teach his tinkering and repair skills to inspire them to fix their electronics. Also, he says, it is fun too! Alvin enjoys being part of the Restarters community and interacting with all the people that come to the events. He is thrilled by fixing though, he loves “bringing back to life” their devices, so that they can last for longer. Alvin shows us how ham radio works, particularly the slow-scan television (SSTV), which serves to transmit and exchange static pictures with other radio operators around the globe. Alvin tells us about the codes and tricks needed to communicate through SSTV, and how to identify what countries signals come from and who sends them. “You are still sending sound, and it just converts it into picture”, he explains. We hear amazing radio sounds, which we rarely hear anymore as we have embraced digital radio. Despite his engineering background, Alvin is sure that anyone can learn amateur radio, and motivates everyone to become part of this community, of this “way of life”. Links: RSGB: Getting started with amateur radio Columbia University: History of the CU Amateur Radio Club HamQTH: G1BTF Restart: World Radio Day Motherboard: Amateur radio hobbyist are connecting the Caribbean after hurricane [Featured image by Flickr user Paul L. McCord Jr.] The post Restart Podcast Ep 32: Amateur (ham) radio with Alvin Hardy appeared first on The Restart Project.


22 May 2018

Rank #18

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Restart Radio: Wildlife conservation and the role of open, repairable technology

Ugo interviews Alasdair Davies, who has been working as a conservation technologist for over 10 years. Alasdair introduces us to his work on bringing affordable, customisable and repairable open hardware technology to people working on conservation projects. When he started working in the field, Alasdair noticed it was hard to get access to devices. The options were: either spent a lot of money on out-of-the-box, proprietary equipment or take a chance with DIY options made in makerspaces. In response, after being involved with the maker movement and working for the London Zoo, he decided to launch his own project – the Arribada Initiative – which aims to deliver “open conservation technology for all”. So how can technology help in conservation? First, Alasdair tells us about his project with sea turtles, where he used GPS transmitters to tag and track the turtles’ routine – where they feed, where they nest, and hence where to protect them. These tags used to be extremely expensive to buy and repair, making it too costly to track populations. However, he has worked to reduce this problem, with each tag now costing a third of the original price. Also, Alasdair tells us about how they used cameras and Raspberry Pi technology on the tags to explore the bottom of the oceans. The images are quite impressive: Next, we talk about the potential of technology for communities to influence local policymaking. For instance, people in marine communities can analyse the type of plastic they find impacting on sea life and where it might have come from. And they can prove how and where to take action for the conservation of species thanks to the more inexpensive tags. Then, given our interest in repair, we talk about responsible design. When out in the field, there are many issues around repairing the devices used in conservation projects. For this reason, Alasdair has worked on devices which can be fixed easily and locally, making use of traditional tools that communities feel confident with. Also, we discuss the potential to reuse these devices through sharing tools with other conservation teams. Finally, Alasdair tells us about other projects such as his work with king penguins in Antarctica for “Penguin Watch”, and with AudioMoth, an open source audio recorder used in the field. Arribada’s approach in supporting the team working on the AudioMoth is promising, as it acknowledges the importance of ensuring that open hardware projects get long-term software updates and maintenance. Links: Shuttleworth Foundation: Alasdair Davies Arribada Initiative O’Reilly: Sea turtles and open source Penguin watch Open Acoustic Devices: AudioMoth [Featured image by Unsplash user Randall Ruiz] [Video source: Institute IRNAS, as published on the Raspberri Pi blog – Sea turtles and Arribada initiative] The post Restart Radio: Wildlife conservation and the role of open, repairable technology appeared first on The Restart Project.


11 Apr 2018

Rank #19

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Restart Podcast Ep. 35: Exploring the critical materials in our electronics

We interview researcher Jessika Luth Richter from Lund University. The topic: the ‘critical’ materials that are found in our electronics – what makes materials ‘critical’, their global supplies, their mining, and how little we recycle them. We also discuss the demand of some of these materials for renewable energy. First, Jessika walks us through some of the critical materials that are essential for our smartphones to function: some are needed for touch screens (like indium and tin), others for batteries (like cobalt), and many more make up the electronics, from wires to micro capacitors. Both the European Union and the United States have published lists containing the materials they consider critical: 27 and 35 respectively. So whether a material is labelled as critical will vary depending on each region’s supply chain and demand for materials. Then, we discuss how critical raw materials can be found in many deposits around the world. However, not all countries have developed the expertise to mine them safely and affordably, and currently most import them from China. While there are reserves in Europe, there isn’t enough drive to ensure mining complies with environmental legislation at European level while still being profitable. While you might not have heard of critical raw materials before, ‘conflict minerals’ may sound more familiar. However, not all conflict materials are considered critical. Conflict zones imply supply risks, potentially making a material critical, however there can still be other sources, as is the case with gold. Next, we talk about issues when recycling critical materials. With a few exceptions, like cobalt or tungsten, critical materials have very low recycling rates. These materials are found in various parts of our devices, and also in very small amounts. This makes it hard to separate these materials after they are shredded in recycling facilities. Jessika talks about some innovative technologies that could make this process more efficient. However, she points out that the unpredictable demand of these materials makes it difficult for these technologies to develop. Despite their unpredictable demand, there are technologies which will rely extensively on critical raw materials, for instance renewable technologies like wind turbines or solar panels. Lastly, we reflect on how each of us can work towards a more responsible use of critical raw materials. At a minimum, Jessika suggests, we should be thinking more about the products we purchase and embracing repair to make things last for longer. Keeping products in the loop, Jessika adds, we can slow the demand for these materials, while giving more time for recycling technologies to thrive. Jessika Luth Richter is currently collaborating with Restart to the ‘Refer’ project, a European network of universities working to raise awareness about critical raw materials. Links: Lund University: Jessika Luth Richter European Commission: Critical Raw Materials U.S. Department of the Interior: 35 minerals deemed critical to the U.S.  BBC Sound Effects Library for the coal mining sounds in the podcast The post Restart Podcast Ep. 35: Exploring the critical materials in our electronics appeared first on The Restart Project.


26 Sep 2018

Rank #20