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Tech company Framework designs modular laptop to reduce e-waste

American tech company Framework has created a new laptop with modular components that can be easily repaired and replaced. It will help increase the lifespan of laptops and reduce the e-waste produced per unit.

Laptops can be tricky products to purchase successfully, at least as far as getting the right thing that will last a long time.

They tend to break seemingly without reason and you can easily wind up spending a ton of money on new machines or products that you never intended to buy in the first place. It can be a headache and also contributes to the ever-growing issue of e-waste.

American tech company Framework has been developing a new laptop that hopes to serve as a solution to this issue. Available either pre-assembled or via parts, The Framework Laptop is available for a starting price of £999 and is designed to be easily upgraded, repaired, modified, or as a last resort, recycled.

This goes for individual parts, too, which can be purchased from the company’s website and easily inserted to your laptop. All models come with a screwdriver and spudger, so you’ve no excuse to avoid getting stuck into the nitty gritty of computer building.

Credit: Framework

CEO Nirav Patel says the product is intended to encourage a more circular economic model, whereby parts are re-used or broken down and built into new ones. There’ll be less chucking tech components in the bin, which is good news for the environment.

‘We’ve gone from 44.4 million tonnes of e-waste per year in 2014 to 53.6 million tonnes in 2019. We can’t keep going in this direction.’

The idea is to stop viewing our tech products – whether that be phones, laptops, headphones, or anything in between – as one-off disposable items. Instead, Framework looks to push us to consider owning one single product for many, many years.

This is the first laptop released by the tech firm, which boasts a 16-millimitre-thick, 13.5-inch screen. Its casing is made of 50% recycled aluminium, and can be customised to include varying amounts of USB and HDMI ports on either side of the keyboard.

Plus, it has a 55-watt-hour battery and a quick-access motherboard. You can also replace the whole board entirely, should you need to.

Every separate component inside the laptop includes a QR code that gives customers step-by-step instructions for repairs, and a URL code to order new parts via the Framework marketplace.

All of these inclusions helps promote the ‘right to repair’ concept that has steadily gained momentum in recent years, though Patel argues it hasn’t been enough.

Both the EU and the UK have passed new laws that cover repair rights but they currently exclude laptops and smartphones from any regulation, which are the two most pressing products we tend to need on a daily basis.

It also means that mainstream brands – Apple, Microsoft – can get away with providing very little repair options for flagship items.

Credit: Framework

‘Big companies aren’t in the habit of making changes that risk reducing revenue. Deep modularity requires business model transformation to align the incentives around product longevity,’ says Patel.

So, if we’re to see more concepts like the Framework laptop, we need a rethink on how we care for and use our products. Think changeable batteries in iPhones, easily swappable screens for Kindles, and all with easy-to-understand instructions and codes included with products as standard.

It is realistically the only way we’ll be able to lower our e-waste without compromising on our reliance for new technology. Let’s hope we see a bigger, more meaningful law shift soon.


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