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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Recycled parts aren’t enough for laptop sustainability

OPINION: Many laptop manufacturers are hypocritical when it comes to sustainability. They claim they care about the environment and launch products made up of recycled materials, yet still encourage you to buy the next iteration of the laptop one year later. 

Laptops with a large lifespan will likely be more beneficial to the environment than those that need to be replaced every year or so, even if they feature recycled components. And what’s the best way of improving a laptop’s lifespan? Other than using high-quality components, the best thing a manufacturer can do is to make it easier for users to repair or upgrade their own systems. 

That’s exactly what Dell has done with its new Lunar concept laptop. This prototype looks very similar to a Dell XPS 13 laptop, but has a slew of extra features that makes it more eco-friendly. 

Firstly, Dell has reduced the number of screws you need to remove before opening up the laptop. That will apparently shave 1.5 hours off the total time it takes to repair a laptop. A video shown to press demonstrated how easy it is to detach the keyboard and screen, so you don’t need to be a tech expert to do so. 

Dell’s concept Luna

And since no glue solvents are used to fix the components in place, Dell has made sure it’s easy for the user to replace an internal component themselves.

Dell has also reduced the size of the motherboard by 75% in order to fit it behind the laptop’s display. Since this section of the laptop has a larger surface area exposed to cool air outside, Dell suggests there is no need for a fan to cool down the CPU. This means you have one less component to worry about breaking down and requiring a replacement. 

“Our position is simple. We need to move from use, then recycle – to use, reuse multiple times and then recycle when the material is no longer usable in its original form,” explained Glen Robson, Dell’s Chief Technology Officer. “This iteration of Concept Luna does just that. It shows a vision for what could be.”

Of course, Dell’s Luna laptop is just a concept right now, so you won’t be able to purchase it anytime soon, if ever. But it’s still great to see a laptop manufacturer with this mindset, and it’s possible that features could pop up in a XPS laptop in the future. 

Apple Self Service Repair 3
Apple Self Service programme

In comparison, manufacturers such as Apple have made it notoriously difficult for users to repair or upgrade their MacBook. Apple doesn’t even provide a repair manual on its website, encouraging people to instead send their laptop in for repair. 

I don’t want to bash Apple too much, as it has excelled in other areas in terms of sustainability. The new MacBook Pro enclosure is made up of 100% recycled aluminium, and Apple has pledged to make all of its products carbon neutral by 2030. 

It’s also important to remember that Apple recently announced a self-service repair programme, which will make Apple-made components available to purchase for those who want to fix their iPhone or Mac themselves. It’s a step in the right direction for Apple, but a lot more work can still be done. 

I really do believe that if laptop manufacturers want to reduce their carbon footprint, then they need to make their laptops easy to repair for the average user. And if Dell is able to fit the features of the Luna concept into a Dell XPS 13 laptop without making any significant compromises, I don’t see why rival manufacturers can’t follow suit. 

Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon. 

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