repair

time to step up

Limited legislation has been passed to provide our Right to Repair, but there is still much more we can do. We can all take better care of our things. Make them last longer. We can learn to repair them, or find someone who can.

We already have lots of potential solutions. Community repair groups like Repair Cafe’s and the Restart Project can help us make things last longer, but ultimately we need to build much more capability.

In the short term our local Council’s and Waste Authorities can help make a real difference.
Some already do, but they can all do more.

Councils could enable more access to unused shops for community repair groups to use (like Share and Repair in Bath, Re:Make in Newport or the Fixing Factory in Camden).

They can also help with consumer awareness and education. They can help shift the culture from recycling (which is wasteful) to reuse and repair. Adding facilities to HWRCs (like the Fixing Factory in Brent). They can work in partnership with repair groups, charities and local independent repairers.

All the areas highlighted in the diagram above are opportunities for local authorities to help make more of a difference.

Second ‘Fixing Factory’ in London

Mark Phillips Events, News October 28, 2022 7 Comments

The second Fixing Factory was opened by the mayor in Camden.

The Restart Project in partnership with climate charity PossibleReady Tech GoWest London Waste Authority, and Mer IT, and with National Lottery Community Funding is creating new ‘Fixing Factories’ in London.  For more information see the dedicated Fixing Factory website.

Camden Fixing Factory was officially opened after Camden Mayor, Nasim Ali, cut the ribbon. There were also a number of other local politicians plus representatives from a number of local stakeholders and community groups. In addiction to the opening of the Queen’s Crescent Fixing Factory, the local community was also invited to take part in some hands-on fixing.

The final touches to the signage at Camden Fixing Factory

The aim is for these to become a ‘blueprint’ for Fixing Factories around the country, emulating the success of Kierrätyskeskus in Finland.

At the launch event there were demonstrations from Mer-IT of how to open your laptop, change hard drives, memory cards and batteries.

Mer-IT explaining the insides of a laptop and how to upgrade parts, extending its life.

Volunteers at opening event

Whilst the main goal is to make electronics last longer, to prevent unnecessary e-waste and the huge amount of carbon emissions involved in the production and transport of new devices, such facilities also provide wider community benefits – they help increase high street activity, create local community events, training and potential job opportunities, improve local environmental performance and help with the cost of living crisis.

Sian Berry AM (London Assembly Member – Greens) and Dermot Jones (Camden Fixing Factory in conversation

you can hear more about the Camden and Brent Fixing Factories are the Restarters Podcast.

Culture of Repair

Throughout this project, I have endeavoured to identify some of the key issues and potential solutions to address our waste. In discussions with many people, even those reasonably aware of environmental issues, there is a lack of knowledge about the real impact of our consumption and what we can all do about it. That is why unbroken.solutions focusses on solutions that others can adopt or adapt to suit their needs.

But ultimately, we need to create, or re-create, a culture of repair. One where design takes account of the need to rebuild, to reuse and to recycle, so waste is minimised. One where repair and its value is understood. One where repair resources are readily available and accessible. One where to repair, is to care.

So, it was great to connect with Vita at the Culture of Repair. Based in the Bay Area, California, their mission is simply: That Repair be an actionable and pervasive cultural value.

They focus on bringing repair to the classroom, to educate the next generation. Their efforts are currently looking to integrate Repair into maker programs in schools and educational non-profits, supporting community repair events, advocating for repair at the state and local levels, and, as always, promoting repair as a social value. 

The Culture of Repair Project works exclusively in The East Bay and is currently concentrating on initiatives in Oakland and Berkeley, CA. However, their site contains lots of ideas and resources, for educators, for repair groups and for the general public, everywhere.

For those interested check the link here: Resources and Worldwide Initiatives.

Resource lists are provided to help people new to thinking about Repair begin to find material meaningful to their lines of inquiry. The more we learn the more we can make an impact.

Report for Microsoft confirms the benefits of Repair

An independent report, commissioned by Microsoft confirms that repairing devices reduces waste and climate emissions.

The study compared replacement versus factory or authorised repair for different Microsoft products. The product included Surface Pros, Surface Book and Laptop Studio.

The study found that, compared to device replacement, all forms of repair offer significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and waste reduction benefits. (For the devices studied, repairing can yield up to a 92% reduction in potential waste and emissions.)

It also found that design has significant potential to reduce carbon and waste impacts. Design for repair helps repair and reduces harmful impacts.

Finally, it highlighted that transportation logistics can play in contributing to overall GHG emissions associated with repair services. “To further reduce waste and GHG emissions, Microsoft is advised to take steps to expand repair locations and capabilities across more devices and to promote mail-to repair services“. 

Manufacturers need to do more to enable repair.

Self-repair and the Right to Repair

Despite the recent claims made, most products are still made with deliberate ‘anti-repair’ designs.

Two phones – one uses 8 simple Phillips screws. The other 2 security screws, 55 Phillips screws in 6 different sizes, a glued screen and glue strips to hold the battery.

Apart from the security screws and fixings, and glued in parts, there are other challenges. First, is access to affordable parts. Software and serialised components can cause the replacement part to not be recognised by the device and will not work. Or may have some features disabled.

Then there is the challenge of how comprehensive the self-repair program is. Apple’s repair program has only been launched, and only in the US. Samsung’s program is currently limited to a few models (Galaxy S20, S21 and Tab S7 devices).

There is a danger that such programs simply buy manufacturers more time. Then continue their current practices and defer the adoption of real right to repair. It is good news that manufacturers are, at last, collaborating with repair experts at iFixit. But advocates for repair are not yet out of a job.

So, whilst, the proposed moves are a step in the right direction, it’s a small step. Without continued pressure little real progress will be made.

Progress on Repair

Two bits of encouraging news about repair and our rights appeared in the last couple of days.

First: In the European Parliament MEPs want more durable and more easily repairable products. On Thursday 7 April, Parliament adopted its demands for an upcoming European Commission proposal on the right to repair planned for later in 2022, with 509 votes in favour, 3 against and 13 abstentions.

Second: iFixit and Google are Launching a Genuine Pixel Parts Program. Google is the latest manufacturer to partner with DIY repair specialists iFixit to offer spare parts for its devices. It should make it far easier for customers to get parts to repair their own Pixel smartphone if it breaks. Parts like batteries, displays, and cameras will be available to purchase in the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and other European countries. Google says that parts will be available to purchase “later this year”.

Whilst these are both encouraging, there is still a long way to go before we have meaningful rights to repair and manufacturers embrace repairability.

Self-repair programs are not a real right to repair victory. It doesn’t guarantee you will be able to fix your phone.