Repair or Replace? This is the question when a device or a home appliance breaks. Unfortunately, it is often the case that people are not given the chance to decide. Not for long in Europe!

Manufacturers are increasingly making devices and appliances in such a way that no one can repair them. Most smart phones, laptops, even refrigerators and TV’s, are designed in a way that they cannot even be opened.

From a commercial point of view, I guess, this makes sense. The consumers are supposed to use a certain product until it shows a fault. Then they will simply have to get a new one, and of course they will not get the same old one, they will have to invest in the latest version.

For the business this is quite a profitable model. Unfortunately, whoever came up with it, does not seem to have considered the environmental impact such decision can have. New devices and appliances require new sets of raw materials.

This puts enormous pressure on already limited resources, and creates demands for more unsustainable mining. I will skip the step in between, which includes massive commercialism, addiction to shopping, and unnecessary accumulation of things. It is a topic of a different discussion, and I will jump to the after-life of these devices. Once they are broken, there is not much choice but to dispose of them.

If people are responsible, they dispose of their electronic garbage in a way that is as smart as possible. In many places, there are options to recycle, however the owners have to actively search for these. There are also those cases, where in order to dispose of a refrigerator or another home appliance in an eco-friendly manner, you actually have to pay for it.

You can understand where I am going with this. For the majority of people around us, something like this is out of the question. They will throw away their smart phone in the general garbage, and dispose of an appliance in a way that no one knows it was them, and this will be the end of the story for them. This behavior, however, results in a great deal of toxic pollutants being added to the environment every day.

Fortunately, this is not what Europeans would like to agree with. A so-called “Right to Repair” movement is picking up speed across the old continent. People are clearly done with the mentality of careless disposal of goods. They would like to gain control again, and have the option to fix the broken. What makes it even better, environmental ministers are actually standing behind the idea. They are pushing to impose legislation, which oblige manufacturers to allow repairs of devices, under the European Ecodesign Directive.

I am sure that tech-makers will find a way around this. In many cases, where repairs are possible, the price tag is so high that often people opt for buying a new product instead. This is especially the case with some of the biggest producers of electronics, who oblige their customers to repair only in specialized shops, under the product terms and conditions. In this way, they can control the prices, speed of repair, and generally discourage their customers from going down the path.

However, there is still hope that the mindset will change. Our community should be more active on such initiatives and support them every time. If you are interested to take part in this particular one, follow this link and sign the petition (for UK, Germany and Italy).

Image (c) Repair Cafe

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