Raw materials, especially those which are scarce and therefore critical in nature, are crucial to the world economy and essential to maintaining and improving our quality of life. They are of paramount importance to the modern, technological world and the potential for supply interruptions is very disruptive to the economy and society. As such, significant actions at many levels are required to tackle this situation and it is essential to inform the general public as to the rationale for such actions.
Engaging the Public
In spite of the severity of the situation, the issues of critical raw materials are relatively unknown to the general public, who for the most part are largely unaware of the issues. This lack of awareness endangers the development of long-term solutions and developments in this field. The REFER project seeks to address this shortfall through the medium of appliance repair for the general public with a continuous series of repair events, associated educational and website resources. The project aims to facilitate education, discussion and engagement around this topic through the unique opportunity presented in this regard.
THE REFER PROJECT
The project will undertake the creation and establishment of a network of educational-driven, repair-based events across 6 countries in Europe, allowing people to bring their small electrical and electronic devices to be repaired. At these events, attendees will be afforded the opportunity to repair their electronic devices and appliances with the aid of trained repairers and restarters. Attendees will sit down with expert volunteers and staff to understand how the technology works, identify the problems and affect repairs on the device. Participants can chat to repair personnel about the repair process, the nature of the technologies involved, the range and amounts of CRMs and other scarce resources and what can be done to address the lack of such resources.
Highlighting New Approaches
Key points highlighted during these workshops will include the increased use of critical raw materials, rare earth elements and other scarce metals and resources in modern-day consumer products; the low recycling rates of CRMs at present and the associated causes; new approaches and technologies being developed to combat these shortages; low collections rates for WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical Appliances) in general at national and international levels; why WEEE collection is so important and what we can do about it and the use of extended product lifetime, repair and reuse as a means to conserve some of these CRMs.