Can we fix it? 'Right to Repair' our gadgets is gaining momentum
by Alexandra Genova
What's Going On Here?
‘Right to Repair’ has been gaining traction in recent months, as big businesses and presidential candidates get on board. At its core, the movement is fighting for a reduction in electronic waste— known as E-waste—by giving more options to the consumer to repair their goods.
What Does This Mean?
Think about the various gadgets you own. How many items could you reasonably fix right now? And if it costs less to fix them than to buy shiny new ones, would you consider it? If you want to fix say, your smartphone, you will normally have to go exclusively to the manufacturer or authorised agent and pay a massively inflated price. This means more money for them, less money for you and—worst of all—more e-waste (more of that later). So what is being done about it? One of the worst offenders for manufacturer monopoly—Apple—announced last week that they will allow more large and small repair shops to make "the most common" out-of-warranty iPhone repairs. Earlier in the year, the EU announced it would introduce legislation obliging manufacturers to make their products longer-lasting and easier to repair following ratification by European environment ministries. This will come into force in April 2021 and will apply to household products like washing machines, fridges and display screens.
Why Should We Care?
Not being able to fix our electronic goods safely and cheaply often means we buy new ones. And the more stuff we buy, the more waste we generate. According to a 2017 report from the United Nations University, the production of e-waste grew to 45 million metric tonnes globally in 2016, a figure estimated to hike to more than 52 million metric tonnes annually by 2021. The cost of mishandled e-waste is catastrophic on every level—polluting air, soil, water, wildlife and human beings. Poorer countries are more likely to have to import e-waste, meaning they are the worst affected. Take Ghana for example, e-waste burning has become so widespread in parts of the country that recent studies have suggested that breast milk could be contaminated by the pollution!
We have talked about this before; a large part of the fight for environmental justice is in our power as a consumer. It is about taking control where we can—and this is just as applicable to electronics as it is to the food we eat. If we can learn to fix our electronics, we can help reduce this destructive waste.
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