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.
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.