Are you prone to breaking your electronic devices? What about just worried about the production of electronic waste on campus in general? In either case, we’ve got good news: there’s a place at UIUC that helps with both problems! The Illini Gadget Garage is a  project of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) that collects works with the UI community to repair electronics and small appliances. Unlike a traditional repair shop, customers bring in their devices and work under the guidance of Gadget Garage staff to fix it yourself. This may seem daunting, but by bringing a device to the Gadget Garage, you are not only learning a new skill and saving money, but diverting your device from entering the waste stream.

According to Joy Scrogum, a Sustainability Specialist at the ISTC, “Electronics involve the investment of many precious minerals and other natural resources, as well as human resources in the form of labor… this makes our perception of them as relatively ‘disposable’ items all the more problematic.” It’s no secret that we have become addicted to our devices and appliances. However, the supplies of the materials we use to make them will not last forever, meaning we cannot continue to throw out electronics when there are pieces inside them that could be used again. Furthermore, once an electronic is in the waste stream, the metals and chemicals inside pose a great threat to the environment and our health through leaching. This makes the reduction of e-waste one of the most pressing components of our waste crisis. As Scrogum highlights, ~3.3 million tons of e-waste are produced in the USA each year, a figure that could drastically decrease if more programs like the Gadget Garage existed, which diverted about 350 pounds of waste in 2017.

There are plenty of ways for students to get involved with the Gadget Garage. First and foremost – bring in your devices the next time they break, don’t toss them! There are also ample opportunities available for volunteering or employment. Please note that you don’t have to be an engineer or a “tech” person to get involved. The Garage also seeks students with marketing, media, education, and technical writing skills in particular, but welcomes anyone that wants to learn and help educate others about the importance of this project!

If you are interested in working with the Illini Gadget Garage to fix your devices, or to volunteer or seek employment, please feel free to email illinigadgetgarage@gmail.com.