There aren’t many people who know the inside of a mobile phone better than Geoff Bentley.
He has a particular passion for repairing electronic devices that led him to become a volunteer for Urban Miners.
As Geoff sees it, recycling takes energy. It’s far better to repair and reuse if possible.
“I’m able to rescue at least 50% of the phones and tablets that get dropped off [to Urban Miners].”
“We soon realised that we could potentially refurbish them, wipe them, and get them back into the community for reuse. Because recycling requires a lot of energy, if we can make use of those old phones or sell them on, or get them into schools for use, that’s awesome! A lot of them are super, still really powerful and really useful.”
Geoff admits that the first time he went along to an Urban Miners e-waste collection and saw the trailer full of TVs and other e-waste, he found it shocking.
“And to think that that’s just our small Cambridge community, and that every month we are chucking that amount of stuff away.”
“People think ‘Oh it’s fine, because it’s just me! It’s just my appliance, it’s just my little microwave, and my little thing’, but when you multiply that by 25,000 people, it’s a lot and that’s crazy.”
His involvement with Urban Miners has only sharpened his resolve to champion sustainable technology and waste minimisation.
It is no surprise that Bentley comes from a strong digital background. He was involved with website development for 20 years, before becoming an accredited facilitator for digital technology for the Ministry of Education.
“I also have a love of learning. I’m a curious person. I’m constantly interested and fascinated about anything really, but certainly in terms of technology, and how things are put together.”
In 2018, he set up his own e-waste minimisation and sustainable technology programme called Repair Detectives. The goal is to encourage young people to develop their repair- and problem-solving skills.
Geoff believes that there is great educational value in taking things apart and understanding the various components contained within a device. He tries to marry his work as a digital tech educator with the voluntary work he does for Urban Miners.
“As students are making more use of phones, it’s a great skill to learn to how to repair your phone. That’s one thing. The second thing is it’s really cool and important to see how a phone is made up, and what’s inside the phone. You realize very quickly that a lot of it is battery and screen. The actual computer part is actually pretty tiny.”
Geoff practices what he preaches in his life. He and his wife cycle everywhere in Cambridge, and also think very carefully about how they live.
“I think, to a degree, part of being sustainable is being really conscious of what the trade-offs are in terms of technology versus actually just taking a little bit more time. It might take more time, but it’s better for the environment. These are choices that people need to start making.”
“I came into Urban Miners with a repair focus, and that’s still my focus.”