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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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“.
Despite the recent claims made, most products are still made with deliberate ‘anti-repair’ designs.
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.
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.
As one of the Honorable Mentions in the 2022 ZEKE Award for Systemic Change – Unbroken – Repair is Essential. The project is published in Zeke and will be exhibited at PhotoVille, Brooklyn, NY in June.