The most sustainable device you will ever own is the one you currently have.
Learn what you and others can do to help keep your devices working by learning to troubleshoot and repair them. Yes, YOU can do it. No, you don’t need experience, we’re here to help walk you through the troubleshooting process to figure out what’s wrong, what parts might need to be replaced, and how to replace them. If you can solve puzzles and read recipes, then you’re about 80 percent of the way ready to jump into repairing a phone or a laptop. The other 20 percent is a combination of patience, practice, and a willingness to learn.
At the Gadget Garage, we want to keep as many devices out of landfills as we can and that all starts with YOU.
Find us at the Champaign Public Library (Friends meeting room, second floor) on Saturday, April 21st from 1:30-4:00 PM for our (day-early) Earth Day event. Find out more from us about: battery, CD/DVD, and CD case recycling; where to take working electronics you no longer want; where to recycle non-functioning electronics in the CU area; where to find local repair shops for those of you who do not want to work on your own devices; etc. We have a lot of information to offer! Stop in and help us help the Earth.
And help you of course.
Because you love it when technology works like it’s supposed to. We all do.
Have broken gadgets or questions about what we do? Find us in the Champaign Public Library’s Library Friends Conference Room this Saturday, March 10th from 1-3. If you have items you are interested in repairing, we encourage you to email us about the items ahead of time, so that we can do some preliminary research and can accommodate the time and tool constraints needed for the repair. Contact us at: illiniGadgetGarage@gmail.com
Thanks to Urbana Public Television (UPTV6) for visiting the Illini Gadget Garage recently and featuring us in the February 2018 edition of “It’s All About U,” a program that highlights events, services, and programs in the City of Urbana, IL. Host Natalie Kenny Marquez spoke to project coordinator and sustainability specialist from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), Joy Scrogum, and IGG staff members Madeleine Wolske and Amanda Elzbieciak. If you’re just learning about our project, haven’t had a chance to visit our workshop, or would like some ideas for how to get involved, check out the video clip below. (Note the bit on the IGG starts at 8:59.)
Join the IGG staff this coming Sunday, December 10th, from 1:00-3:00pm for an afternoon of festive repair! Bring in your broken holiday lights and we will help you repair them. After your repair, enjoy some hot chocolate or tea and create a card out of recycled electronics. This event is free, but we will be accepting a suggested donation of $5 to help defray the costs of running the Illini Gadget Garage. For more information on how to donate, follow this link to our online form.
After getting removed from a parent’s basement, my friend showed me the bag of retro games and consoles her parents had returned to her after years of sitting dormant. In my excitement of holding an original Game Boy, I flipped the device on only to have nothing happen. Batteries must be dead, was my natural assumption. I opened the battery compartment to find the batteries had leaked and corrosion EVERYWHERE.
A younger me would have said, “Well, nothing we can do with it now. We’ll have to get rid of it.” And if time travel were a thing, I might go back and give my younger self a rough shake and an education on when to declare an electronic dead.
My younger self was told to never touch exploded batteries; “it’s acid and it will burn”. Well, it was a half-truth from my parents to keep me from playing with something potentially dangerous. Alkaline batteries don’t leak acid, they actually leak a material that registers as a base on the pH scale: potassium hydroxide. Potassium hydroxide is a conductive solution used in alkaline batteries that can be harmful to us if the proper precautions are not taken in handling it. It’s a corrosive and can cause an itchy/burning sensation if it comes into contact with your skin, eyes, or if inhaled, so be sure to use gloves, safety glasses, and work in a well-ventilated area. Also, I wish it could go without saying, but DO NOT INGEST and wash your hands and work area after any contact with it, gloves or no.
Cleaning Alkaline Corrosion
(Please make sure you’re working with alkaline batteries before performing this cleaning method.)
When cleaning alkaline battery leaks, you want to use an acid like vinegar or lemon juice to take on the base corrosion. What you don’t want to use are other base materials to clean it like baking soda, ammonia, or bleach, you may just make things worse this way. If you’re concerned that the acid may be too strong for cleaning your device, feel free to use a 50/50 mix (equal parts) of distilled water and vinegar or distilled water and lemon juice instead.
Use a Q-tip or small brush (soft bristle toothbrushes work just fine, just don’t use it for teeth cleaning afterwards) dipped in your chosen cleaning acid to scrub off/eat away the corrosion. Wipe with a dry cloth to remove any lingering corrosive particles. Repeat as necessary and let it dry completely before trying to put new batteries in. (Recycle old batteries.)
Some devices are caked in corrosion and require a more thorough cleaning which involves taking the device apart and soaking the contacts as I had to do for this poor Game Boy.
What if I can’t save it?
Corrosion is the eventual fate of all metals, whether they are corroded irreparably depends on the type of metal and the type of corrosive as well as the amount of corrosive it’s been exposed to and how long it’s been there. I don’t know how long the batteries in this device have been leaking exactly, but the corrosion had eaten through enough of the top layers of metal to pockmark it. Fortunately, it was not enough to cause it to be irreparable for this project, a good scrub allowed us to get this device up and running again.
Should the damage to your device be irreparable and replacement parts unable to be found, recycling your device is the best course of action to take. Since Illinois state law has a ban on electronics like these in landfills, you can find local recyclers that can take your devices. Nintendo also offers repair of their products and take back programs which will allow you to send your old Nintendo devices (and sometimes other companies devices) in for recycling for free. Sony also offers a version of recycling as well.
What if it’s not Alkaline Battery Corrosion?
In regards to other types of corrosion, the cleaning methods vary. Different corrosives require different techniques. Isopropyl alcohol (90% and higher) is frequently used to clean/rinse motherboards as it dries quickly, but you could also soak/rinse a board (only the board, no power source or hard drive, etc.) in distilled or de-ionized water. It’s not the water itself that causes the corrosion, but the impurities and chemicals found in the water (like fluoride and chlorine). We don’t recommend submerging the boards although it can be done, we find it a bit risky and wasteful of resources, instead we use Qtips to apply cleaner/remove corrosion and soft bristle toothbrushes for some extra scrubbing power when needed.
We’d like to express our sincere gratitude to HOBI International, Inc. for their recent donation of $5000 to support our efforts to promote repair and extending the useful life of products here on the UIUC campus! HOBI has supported our efforts since the launch of the Illini Gadget Garage (IGG) project, providing a letter of support for our original proposal for a UI Student Sustainability Committee grant and making a previous $5000 donation.
HOBI International, Inc. is a leading mobile, IT and data center asset management provider with comprehensive and traceable solutions for device management, reverse logistics, data erasure, refurbishment and recycling, as well as compliance services. With locations in Arizona, Illinois and Texas, HOBI works with enterprises of all sizes nationwide. HOBI was founded by Cathy Hill and Craig Boswell and incorporated in the State of Illinois in 1992 as a privately held corporation. Its focus remains on the complete environmental disposition of post-consumption, manufacturing and mixed electronic surplus and scrap. The company holds R2, RIOS, ISO 14001:2004 and WBE certifications. You can learn more about them at https://hobi.com/about-hobi/.
Craig Boswell, HOBI President and Co-Founder, is a UI alum who has participated in several of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC)’s sustainable electronics efforts over the years. (ISTC coordinates the Illini Gadget Garage.) He served as a juror for the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition, came to campus to present a guest lecture for the spring 2014 course ENG/TE 498: Sustainable Technology: Environmental and Social Impacts of Innovations, and was also a presenter during the 2012 ISTC Sustainability Seminar Series, speaking on design for recycling. You can view the archive of that seminar below. Craig has the unique experience of having been involved in designing electronics earlier in his career as an engineer for an electronics manufacturer. Now as someone who works in the recycling and asset management industry, he has been able to observe first-hand how design decisions impact the ability to repair or disassemble a product for material reclamation–typically by making all of that much more difficult because end-of-life management is not often considered in the design phase for electronic devices. He talks about that a little bit in the archived webinar below. It’s an important lesson which we hope UI industrial design and engineering students take to heart.
If you or your organization would like to contribute to IGG’s efforts to promote repair as a viable alternative to immediate replacement of consumer goods on the UIUC campus and beyond, donations can be made at http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/SEIdonation.html. After entering an amount, you’ll be taken to the UI Foundation’s secure giving site to provide your personal and credit card information. Every little bit helps us pay hourly employees that coordinate student volunteers and day-to-day operations, cover expenses for our physical workshop and consumables, and provide special services like webinars, workshops and collection of batteries for recycling. Your donations also help us keep this educational project free for the campus and broader community. See “Our Impact” to check out what we’ve been able to accomplish so far. Your support will help our positive impact grow!
Note: Businesses mentioned above are for informational and acknowledgement purposes only, and should not be construed as endorsements by the Illini Gadget Garage, the University of Illinois, or units affiliated with this project.