Plastic Free Technology…Impossible (?)

So, although we are trying to live a plastic free life at times it feels too hard. When it comes to technology I really think this is the case as, as a long term lifestyle, it feels like it is impossible to go completely plastic free. Although, it is only November and in theory we could go back to our “Normal” life come 1st January 2017 next year we have already started to talk through the things we are wanting to have back (a later blog post will explore this) but also the fact that most changes are ones we want to continue to make because we can. Now that’s not to say we won’t still slip up, as we do know, but we hope to continue past our year of trying to live a plastic-free life to make it a more permanent lifestyle; yet when it comes to technology we can’t see how.

As part of a Christmas-come bit of our budget, I am about to replace an 8 year laptop with a second hand Macbook (I will be getting it to use from Christmas). There are lots of reasons why I could say I need this – I have started in my role to need to project regularly and my old laptop just isn’t up to it easily but need and want are often things so close together it is often hard to distinguish between the two. Could my old laptop cope in church projection- yes if it could always be plugged in and given a good amount of warm-up time. So, being truthfully honest this “upgrade” is hedging closer to a want than a need by this definition.

Yet, technology does change so quickly that without updating you can easily end up on the back-foot. However, the downfall to it all is that all technology has plastic in it – no matter how limited that might be; it just does. So what does someone do? I know with phones there are options out there like the Fairphone ( a potentially good investment for android users who at some point want to upgrade (and in theory never upgrade again), yet as an apple user (and I hear the moans already) my current plan is to hold out as long as possible with my relatively new apple phone and then when it really goes buy second hand.

My husband and I have lifestyles and jobs that do require some technology beyond a basic phone, for instance we both have laptops which we do various work/outside of work hobbies on. This kind of technology will always at some point need upgrading or at best fixing.


For now, buying second hand has been a decision for me as at least it isn’t brand new plastic, with Apple being the current choice as they tend to last longer (I am hoping this turns out to be true) and it links into our apple iphones. I know I have enough friends who will cry out in disappointment to our final large link up to the “Big A” and I hear that too – they aren’t a particularly ethical company in other ways and they are the dominant company which has another moral implication to it too. Sometimes it feels like life has so many compromises it is overwhelming.

So, I wondered what other non-plastic people were doing about technology? What those who don’t aim to be plastic-free but are trying to reduce their global impact do? Any thoughts helpful. It’s an area of trying to live plastic-free I find most trying. Technology is intrinsically linked to development (for better or worse) and I wonder how easy opting out of it is for anyone; particularly those who use technology for work. Thoughts, anyone?



  1. I think technology is the hardest area.Before video recorders,tv sets were made to last for years and were reparable (we had a gentleman who for many years kept our family tv going as parts were made so it was unnecessary to dispose of whole sets at a time).Nowadays,when presumably we know more about technology,built -in obsolescence prevents this.We get strange looks when we ask about repairing something and not throwing an item away.We have a gentleman who repairs our cooker and has repaired our washing machine in the past.Computers,though,seem to reach a point where they cannot be repaired any longer and are deemed obsolete.We struggle with this,whether it is a laptop,notebook or any other form of technology.We would like these items to be reparable and also updateable.If anybody knows someone who can help with this,we would like their details for future use.We grew up in a society where recycling was the norm and struggle in today’s throwaway society with complete disregard for those who come after us.


  2. I tend to think second hand is the best way forward. I say this having actually a few months ago bought a brand new phone, and also before that I got a brand new laptop for my MSc, so I can’t really talk. Both of these, however, will last for as long as they possibly can (my old iPhone was about four years old when it finally bit the dust for good). The laptop I can just about justify because I needed to be able to run some very demanding software on it and wasn’t sure how to go about doing so on anything older.

    I also think (though obviously this isn’t possible given that you obviously need to carry your laptop about, but I’m writing this in case it’s an option for some of your readers) that a desktop computer can be quite a green option as you can replace it piece by piece, and spending as much as you can on a computer in the first place will hopefully mean it is a bit more ‘futureproof’. I’m talking the type with a proper ‘tower’ here. S has a desktop which he has had for five years now. It was really really good when he bought it after a cash windfall, and even now is only just getting to the point where ‘it might be nice’ to get a new graphics card for it. Nothing else needs changing – it’s just that games have made a lot of advances in graphics in teh last few years, so the games he plays don’t look quite as pretty as they could! It’s not something we are going to do just yet- like you say it’s about identifying that want vs need point! But that’s a smaller sum compared to the cost of a new computer, and the same goes for all its other components.

    Unfortunately I don’t think it’s something you can do with laptops in the same way because obviously any new part has to fit exactly in the space left by the old one, plus the way they are put together is pretty irreversible I think – but nonetheless a useful eco consideration for some of your readers if that would suit their lifestyles (S’s reasons for doing this are nothing to do with how green it is however – it’s just the best way of getting a really good computer for playing games on!)

    From what little I know I think a second hand Mac has the advantage of quality and reliability, plus the casing is presumably mainly metal so that’s a big chunk of your computer which, compared to most, is already doing much better on the plastic front!


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