KC has options if you want to repair old electronics or appliances.
By Dave Greenbaum
THE ONLY THING RELIABLE ABOUT ELECTRONIC GADGETS AND GIZMOS IS THAT THEY ALL EVENTUALLY FAIL.
Most Kansas Citians already know they shouldn’t throw electronic items in the trash (for green reasons). Many cities in the metro have recycling events and will even help you haul away larger appliances. Before you put your old iDevices and other implements of destruction out to pasture forever though, consider the following options to squeeze some extra usefulness out of those gadgets that brought such joy when you first cracked them out of their security cases.
PITCH IT OR FIX IT
Your first decision is whether a repair is worth the effort. For obvious reasons, you usually won’t want to pay more to fix an item than its replacement cost – whether you’re buying used, refurbished, or new. Most appliances and electronic devices have limited life spans. You can check eBay to price-check used gear. View the “completed listings” to see how much items similar to yours commonly sell for. Unless that black and slate iPhone 5 with the cracked screen and fried out headphone jack has a high sentimental value, don’t fix it if you can nab a new iPhone 6 for less.
REPAIR IT YOURSELF
Even if you aren’t mechanical or technical, that doesn’t mean you can’t fix something yourself. Mike Silverman of Lawrence was frustrated that his window air conditioner wasn’t working. After an outrageous repair quote, he took to Facebook. A few friends suggested a YouTube video showing how easy it was to clean out the innards of the unit, and an hour later, the air conditioner was back up and running. Social media is a great place to start your repair journey. Friends can offer suggestions and even let you borrow tools, and there are numerous web sites that guide even inexperienced do-it-yourselfers with many simple repairs.
Kansas City’s Surplus Exchange and Connecting for Good recycle electronics, but they also have tech repair shops with helpful staff. They’ll assist you in finding the part you need and give you some expert advice. The parts are used or recycled, so they’ll cost much less than buying new. For smaller home electronics and appliances, check out the local Habitat For Humanity. Most cities in both Kansas and Missouri have them.
Bob Akers of Surplus Exchange also suggests going to makerspace communities like Hammerspace Community Workshop in Brookside. There you can meet with more technical people who like fixing things as a hobby. Members love sharing their knowledge. Most communities in our region have a makerspace.
REPAIR IT WITH FRIENDS
A “social experiment in improvisational fixing” that began in Brooklyn, New York, in 2008 has unexpected progeny in Kansas City’s Astor Place neighborhood near Brookside. Cate Bachwirtz launched a twice yearly “Fix it Day” (and associated “Trash it Day” that follows a week later) after reading an article about the movement in Yes! Magazine a few years ago. According to their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/fixerscollective), the New York-based Fixers Collective is a “social experiment in improvisational fixing and aggressive asset recovery.” They created “Fix it Days” as a way to bring people in the community together. Rather than just tossing out broken items, the premise is that fixing and caring for things helps people feel more connected and empowered. The monthly Brooklyn version is an open house, of sorts, where people come, not only to get stuff fixed (and hopefully learn to fix things themselves), but also to meet their neighbors.
The Astor Neighborhood Fix it Day takes place twice a year, in October and March. Everyone’s welcome, but if you don’t live near Brookside, consider starting a “Fix it Day” in your own neighborhood.
SELL IT – EVEN IF IT DOESN’T WORK
Who wants broken stuff? Lots of folks. People learning how to fix electronics need broken phones and iPads and video cameras to practice repairing. Dave Mead of Olathe put a broken fridge on Kansas City’s Craigslist. The fridge looked great but didn’t work. A real estate agent purchased the fridge to help stage a home. If your laptop has a water spill, you might be able to swap parts with someone who has a cracked screen. Many communities have Buy/ Sell/Trade groups on Facebook. Search for your city and you’ll probably find one nearby. If something is too big to ship, don’t hesitate to put it on eBay and mention that local pickup is needed. You won’t get rich off this, but you might be able to at least buy a nice cup of coffee as well as keeping something out of the landfill.
GIVE IT AWAY
Many people in the metro swear by “freecycling.” Search for the name of your community and “Freecycle” and you’ll find the local list. Someone will pick up your unwanted electronics and put them to good use. Typically it’s best to first offer items when joining the local Freecycle group, so you won’t seem like you joined just to take. The key rule is you can’t charge anything for the stuff you’re giving away.
Previously mentioned organizations like Surplus Exchange and Connecting for Good focus on electronics. They’ll make sure the computers, monitors and phones are reused in the community whenever possible. Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas have the Dell Reconnect program that accepts most electronics.
Whether you repair, sell, swap or give away your old items, you will be doing your part to keep trash out of the landfill and build community.
Gizmos got you down?
These companies might be able to help.
518 Santa Fe St
Kansas City, MO
CONNECTING FOR GOOD
NE Wyandotte Co. Community Tech Center
2006 North 3rd Street
Kansas City, KS
HAMMERSPACE COMMUNITY WORKSHOP
440 E 63rd Street
Kansas City, MO