sustainability

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.