In a significant pedagogic innovation, REFER will raise the awareness of critical raw materials in wider society through electronics repair events. The public will attend to have their electronics repaired but in the process will be engaged in discussion and informed about pressing CRM related issues, proposed solutions, and how they can help. REFER has a sustainability plan to maintain and expand beyond the duration of the project.

The solution (technology)

Raw materials, especially those which are scarce and therefore critical in nature, are crucial to the world economy and essential to maintaining and improving the quality of life therein. They are of paramount importance in the modern, technological world and any supply interruptions would be very disruptive to the economy and to 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.

In spite of this situation, the concept of critical raw materials is 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 and associated educational resources and website. Using this pedagogic innovation, the project further aims to facilitate education, discussion and engagement around this topic with usually difficult to reach sections of the general public through the unique opportunity presented in this regard.

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. Immediately when they arrive the waiting areas will contain posters and printed materials so the engagement begins from the first moment they arrive. Attendees will then sit down with expert volunteers and staff to understand how the technology works, identify the problem and fix the device. Repairers will engage the participants in discussions on the nature of the technology, the range and amounts of CRMs and other scarce resources used and what can be done to address the lack of such resources.

Some of the key points to be raised during such discussions will be 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 reasons behind these, including new approaches and technologies being developed in this regard; the low collections rates for WEEE in general at national and international levels, why it is so important and what can be done about it and finally the use of extended product lifetime, repair and reuse as a means to conserve some of these CRMs.

The public of course will have a very large incentive to participate in these educational outreach activities as they get the benefit of attempting to have their devices repaired for free. The project will also develop a sustainability plan focusing on the development of entrepreneurial skills with voluntary networks that will be nurtured during the project.