ABLE Electronics opened their doors in January of 2020, a challenging time for anyone to start a business. The founder, David Harrison, saw a gap in the world of electronics recycling in Lethbridge and took action. “I’ve always had a knack for reusing and recycling various things. I had a property services business before opening Able Electronics. I did dump runs and recycling runs for people among other things. Almost every time I went to the dump I would see newer computers than what I could afford sitting there. The dump rules said I wasn’t allowed to touch them after they got there, so I got the idea to advertise a free electronic recycling pick up service. I started diverting electronics out of the landfill and into the hands of people who can not afford to buy new. A service that was very much needed during the pandemic and now as our economy recovers.”

The main objective of ABLE Electronics is to “enable more sustainable practices for businesses and individuals by providing the option to buy refurbished instead of new and to fix their computers rather than throwing them out” They also provide a year-round drop off and pick up service for computer recycling. Diverting electronics from the landfill is not the only reason why they do what they do, it is also about community and equity. “I hope to show the community that recycling and reusing electronics is not only more environmentally friendly than buying new, but also more economically friendly for individuals, businesses and the community as a whole. I hope to show Lethbridge that my business helps the community to get our money’s worth out of the electronics we buy rather than giving that value to another city or discarding the electronics in a non-environmentally friendly way.”

There are challenges that come with computer repair and refurbishing, “Many people are not willing to buy refurbished because they have had or heard of a bad experience with a refurbished computer from another store. Many people believe that any computer older than 2 years is “outdated” when in fact many computers can run up-to-date software for 10 to 12 years.” Convincing people that refurbished computers are just as functional as a new one is a common challenge, not only in electronics, but in many of our consumer habits. The other challenge for David is spreading awareness of his business throughout the community. “There is no established market in Lethbridge for refurbished computers, despite my best efforts over the years. This means customers here only see two price points: used(not refurbished) and new.” David points to Calgary, which has a middle price point for refurbished computers that has been long established. “My products only sell when priced at the used price point, making it hard to get ahead.”

Despite these challenges ABLE Electronics has made a difference in the community. “We recently passed receipt #1000, so you can roughly say that we have diverted 1000 PCs from the landfill by either refurbishing and selling them or through repairs to customers’ PCs. That’s roughly 1000 PCs that didn’t need to be manufactured and shipped into Lethbridge and 1000s of pounds of electronic recycling that didn’t need to be shipped out. That’s 3 pollution producing processes reduced (manufacturing, shipping x2, recycling). Our first couple years we processed approximately 16 tons of electronics for end-of-life recycling.” Customers frequently mention what a much needed service David offers, and “the look on people’s faces when they leave with their repaired computer that every other store said was dead or couldn’t find parts for, that’s what makes me love this business.”

David has big dreams for the future of ABLE Electronics and Lethbridge: “I hope that local sustainable living practices continue to trend in Lethbridge, including the support for local businesses movement. I hope for the store to be a complete service facility. We will manufacture the computers, fix the computers, refurbish the computers and finally end-of-life recycle the computers, supporting customers through the whole life cycle of their computer.” He also is hoping to one day make his business into a work experience program for the College and to work with the city, College and University to collect all computer recycling as the business currently only diverts a small portion away from the landfill.

Written by Charlie Weston

ABLE Electronics