HOBI International advises team effort to extend life of mobile devices

Technical and legislative expertise required to create ecosystem of sustainable electronics.

June 8, 2016
Recycling Today Staff

HOBI International Inc., an electronics recycling company based in Batavia, Illinois, says life span extension of personal electronics and mobile devices can best be achieved if e-recyclers receive the assistance and cooperation they need from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and legislators.

HOBI’s statement is in response to a recent statement from Apple that it will extend the life cycle of its mobile devices from two years to three years. HOBI says, while this initiative is a laudable step toward a sustainable electronics ecosystem, a number of obstacles still must be overcome. 

The major legislative challenge is kill-switch legislation, according to HOBI. Kill switches are intended to reduce the theft of mobile devices by rendering them inoperable. However, they also make it nearly impossible to repair and refurbish otherwise working mobile devices that were never stolen or lost, reducing them to e-scrap. 

Another problem is the restriction imposed by OEMs on who can buy spare parts, such as glass and casings, to repair devices, HOBI saysThis complicates finding spare parts to such an extent that, in some instances, refurbishers are forced to scrap the devices, rather than repair them.

HOBI says OEMs also refuse to release information on device repair and data erasure to maintain proprietary control. To prevent devices from becoming e-scrap, refurbishers must turn to third-party sources, such as iFixit, to perform minor or cosmetic repairs. HOBI argues that the system of third-party repair would be enhanced by OEM participation but will continue regardless of whether they choose to recognize the greater good of information exchange.