It felt like a lot had happened in 2023. But already there is much happening in 2024, especially on the campaign front.
In the UK
After months of nudging, a few councils and waste authorities have responded positively to the ‘act now‘ campaign. This aims to provide more support for repair and reuse in the UK. A particular ‘shout out’ goes to North London Waste Authority, Scottish Government, South Cambridge, West Midlands and Powys. They all took the time to respond and provide more information on their commitments.
DEFRA have also responded, but focussed on their policy paper “The waste prevention programme for England: Maximising Resources, Minimising Waste”. This aims “to use fewer new resources, drive up the repair and reuse of existing materials, and increase recycling“. They are currently consulting on “reforming the producer responsibility system for waste electrical and electronic equipment“. There are a number of good provisions (around funding and producer and large retailer responsibilities). But there are major concerns about the proposals to use kerb-side collection for electrical and electronic items. Given that around 40-50% of these items are reusable and repairable, leaving them ‘kerb-side’ is not god. It is likely to render them all useless and simply create more waste! You have an opportunity to provide input to this consultation – the deadline to respond is 7 March 2024, the link is here: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/product-regulation-and-producer-responsibility/consultation-on-reforming-the-producer-responsibil/
In the USA
USPIRG, iFixit and other campaigners continue to make progress on getting state legislatures to adopt Right to Repair. Following success in California, Oregon is adopting a right to repair. Importantly, Google have come out in support of meaningful proposals. These include:
– Repair parts: ensuring that parts are accessible to the public and no parts pairing or registration. This enables small businesses and local repairers to thrive and grow.-
All good stuff. We look forward to Apple and Samsung doing likewise very soon.
In other news
More community repair groups are starting up in the UK. This includes Islington Fixers, who will hold their first event on 20 January 2024 at the Islington Climate Centre. This is in partnership with the Restart Project.
July– project exhibited at Sustainability Day in Hackney with Hackney Fixers.
September – project exhibited and act now zines distributed to all delegates at Fixfest 2023, in Cardiff. Fixfest brought together over one hundred community repairers and activists from across the UK. It wa an opportunity to share good practice and build capability. Fixfest was also used as a platform to relaunch the Manchester Declaration as a wider and more comprehensive Repair and Reuse Declaration.
The Declaration asks UK legislators and decision-makers at all levels to support repair and reuse to thrive, by requesting the UK:
– Make repair more affordable, through tax reductions and repair vouchers. – Expand the UK’s right to repair regulations to cover all consumer products, to strengthen design standards and remove barriers to repair for everyone. – Introduce a repair index to help the public choose more repairable and durable products. – Introduce requirements and targets for reuse and repair to be prioritised over recycling and provide investment to make this a reality. This should be a key part of amended extended producer responsibility rules. – Support a new generation of repairers through repair training, accreditation and apprenticeships. For more information and to encourage your MP to sign, see https://repairreusedeclaration.uk
Act Now Campaign
During the summer and early autumn the campaign to engage 260 UK councils, plus devolved government and UK government departments started. It asked council to provide better support for repair and reuse. The campaign sent out copies of the book, plus zine and a covering letter. Follow up emails continue to be sent to encourage more support.
The response has been a little muted (unsurprising, given the financial challenges many councils currently have) but largely positive. Some councils have actively engaged and some are including ideas in their future proposals. After some chasing, even DEFRA replied.
In October – attended BOP Bristol and Impressions Gallery, Bradford book fairs with the Photobook Club Collective.
Started research and FOI requests on empty (dead) council spaces that could be put to use to support repair and reuse. This built on the work of Sian Berry’s team in London looking at ‘Dead Spaces‘, addressing London council owned spaces that were not in use or vacant. The FOI extended that research, with a sample across the whole UK. Based on this research, it is estimated that there are around 1200 council owned properties in the UK that are empty and highly likely to be suitable for setting up sharing and repairing centres. This is an opportunity that requires little money to get started.
Visited Cambridge Repair Cafe and exhibited in Cambridge on International Repair Day.
Photographed a Right to Repair Europe (R2REurope) event at EU Parliament in Brussels, aimed at encouraging the parliament to support an improved right to repair directive. Parliament voted positively, but the Council is now in the process of watering down the proposals. Still, it is progress.
Europe has made some progress on repair in 2023 with Batteries directive: User-replaceable batteries required in all portable devices and light transportation vehicles in 2027, and Ecodesign for smartphones & tablets: Parts, tools, and documentation required for all smartphones and tablets by 2025.
In the USA in Colorado: First-ever agricultural bill supporting farmers rights to repair. In Minnesota: Broadest Right to Repair bill yet—this covers basically anything with a chip. In California: requires that electronics and appliances over $100 have parts, tools and manuals available for 7 years and in Maine: Owners & independent mechanics have access to auto telematics. Great progress for USPIRG, iFixit and the other US campaigners.
Also in October, visited RENEW reuse hub, run by Suez, in Manchester. Although early days, this is a major effort to re-direct goods from recycling skips, and to reuse and repair, so they last longer.
Providing facilities like this, plus share and Repair centres is going to be key to deliver any meaningful improvement in our reuse and repair capability. Sadly, the current government waste policy, strategy and proposals will do little to impact this unless there is a proper plan, rather than a the current ‘word salad’.
November– exhibited and spoke at Dead Spaces event with Sian Berry and Climate Emergency Centres in London.
December – unbroken.solutions book was added to SPP network case studies. These case studies provide examples of more sustainable photobook production. The unbroken. solutions photobook was also added to resources in Suez published “Solutions for Stuff”, a comprehensive solutions manual and guide for councils and some material was also provided to the New Zealand, Repair Café Aotearoa Handbook.
During the year regular visits were also made to community repair events and activities at Remake Newport, Penarth, Hackney, Portsmouth Share and Repair, Chesham, Stirling, Cambridge, and Renew in Manchester.
If you want to find out more about progress on repair and reuse and progress on the right to repair check out the Restart Project, R2R Europe and iFixit website and newsletters.
A busy 2023, here’s to more progress in 2024. Happy New Year!
That ‘is a wrap’. In total, 258 books and zines posted to councils, local authorities and devolved government departments. Copies are also going to contributors and collaborators.
As previously indicated, the aim has been to do this and keep the overall footprint and impact small. All parcels hand delivered to my local Post Office.
The plan is to distribute a large number of the act nowzines at FixFest 2023, in Cardiff, in September. Fixfest is a regular global gathering of repairers and tinkerers, activists, policy-makers, thinkers, educators and companies from all over the world. Many community repairers will be present. They will get a free copy of the zine and the option to take copies for local distribution via their repair events.
The campaign tracks the distribution, receipt, email sent and follow up. Information on capabilities and support provided by councils and local authorities will also be captured.
This supports identifying good practices and hopefully pointing to more solutions and case studies.
Regular campaign updates will be provided. Later, copies of the worksheet / database will be made more widely available.
In the UK, councils and local authorities provide our best opportunity to make a meaningful improvements in repair and reuse capability; at least until we have a proper ‘right to repair’.
unbroken.solutions is starting a campaign to encourage greater support, by using a combination of exhibitions and a photobook and ‘zines’ to engage local councils and the public.
unbroken.solutions ‘pop-up’ exhibition at Hackney Sustainability Day in July 2023.
Some councils have already helped provide some funding, or access to facilities, or signposted community repair as an option. Examples such as Share and Repair in Bath, Re:Make Newport and the Fixing Factory in Camden show that community repair can be on the high street. This makes it more visible and available to many more people. But we can do much more.
The first part of the campaign is to distribute a photo book to 260 major councils and waste authorities in the UK. The photo book documents the impact and many solutions from across the world.
The ask is simple: to do more to support repair and reuse. The act now page on this site provides additional links to resources to support this.
In combination with the unbroken.solutions photobook an act now ‘zine’ has been produced to distribute via the community repair network, to the public, asking them to request more local solutions and capability.
Both the book and the zine have been produced in the UK to reduce environmental impact, using printers with strong eco-credentials and an ISO14001 environmental management system, designed to minimise manufacturing waste and using Carbon Neutral and FSC chain of custody sources of paper and card.
The campaign will distribute both the books and the zines over the next few months and encourage councils and the public to provide examples of action.