What Is the Right To Repair Campaign and Why Does It Matter?
Let’s be honest, once an old phone, laptop or charger has been entombed in a drawer, that’s where it tends to stay. We place a curious value on old or defunct electronic items that prevents us from wantonly binning them. It’s unfortunately not an exaggeration to say that the UK has a particular problem with hoarding tech.
A drawer may seem a reasonable alternative to a bin, but it’s actually just a small step away from a much better solution. And we need this next step to combat not only our tech hoarding tendencies, but also the trajectory of the current UK e-waste crisis.
Gotraka is here to signpost people to groups, charities and initiatives that are actively working towards a greener future for the tech world. And so, allow us to share with you an important piece of the puzzle we have discovered on our sustainability journey.
Aiming to release the wire-mummified devices buried in your drawers and give them a new lease of life - read on to find out more about The Right To Repair Campaign.
We Hoard Because We Don’t Know What Else To Do
Recent studies have shown that the UK’s tech hoarding problem is at least partially due to a lack of information. Over the last 30 years or so, we have become accustomed to sorting household waste into the appropriate bins to recycle plastic, glass, compost, and more. It took a little while to get used to the different coloured bins, but once we learned the system, it became routine. Now, we just need to apply this same consideration to our tech products.
When we tuck away old tech that we don’t have a plan for, it transforms into something far less valuable: clutter. There’s nothing clutter loves more than to take up space and, while this might be better than winding up in a landfill, it isn’t really living up to its potential. This is where the Right to Repair movement comes in.
What Is The Right To Repair Campaign?
The Right To Repair is a global movement designed to ensure that everyone has the right to fix the products they own. It was set up to change regulations on how products are manufactured - to enable easier and less expensive access to repairs.
The Right To Repair was inspired not only to help to fight the e-waste crisis, but also to bolster consumer rights.
How It Started
The Right To Repair began as an initiative in the US with the aim of allowing vehicle-owners autonomy over repairs to their vehicles. This would stop them from needing to rely solely on the vehicle manufacturer for repairs, and even allow them to perform repairs themselves.
The movement gained traction, and led a lot of people to wonder why they shouldn’t be able to repair other things they own. As the Right To Repair campaign started to spread to new locations, it also started to encompass new devices. In March of 2021, EU right to repair measures were introduced to help combat the global e-waste crisis. And despite Brexit, the UK has made steps to match these standards.
The Legislation Only Covers Certain Electronic Devices
When the Right To Repair legislation was introduced to the UK, it covered several different electronic items including washing machines, refrigerators, and TVs. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t cover quite as much as it should. Laptops, smartphones, microwaves, and a lot more besides, are still not required to make specifications, spare parts, or alternative means of repair available to the consumer.
Supporting the UK Right To Repair campaign is a crucial part of reversing the trajectory of the e-waste crisis. Much like the devices dumped in a drawer rather than in landfill, we’re just a step away from a far better solution.
Why The Right To Repair Matters
The Right To Repair movement not only provides positive action for individuals who want to take charge of the care of their devices, but it’s also better for the environment. When we refurbish our old devices, we avoid a number of negative environmental impacts.
There’s no getting around the fact that a huge proportion of electronic goods end up in landfill. Moving house? Spring cleaning? Even the devices that spend years cluttering drawers or sheds are likely to get dumped at some point.
Beyond the obvious, sending electronic waste to landfills can cause a lot of environmental issues. When improperly cared for, the sensitive minerals that many of these devices contain can enter the ground — not only damaging the soil itself, but also harming nearby wildlife and water sources. It is also laying waste to finite resources that could very much do with recovery and reuse to ensure that we can continue our advancement as a society.
With a well-rounded Right To Repair act in place, we are given the means to more easily refurbish, repurpose, sell or donate electronic goods instead of throwing them away.
Electronic goods have become such an intrinsic part of day-to-day life that a breakdown essentially requires replacement or repair as fast as possible. Without comprehensive right-to-repair legislation making parts and third-party repairs available, we are often left with no other option but to buy a new replacement. This constant demand keeps suppliers happy, but it can lead to something called planned obsolescence.
What Is Planned Obsolescence?
Planned obsolescence refers to the intentional limiting of an item's lifespan, often with the intention of ensuring future demand for replacements. For the many devices not covered by the current UK right to repair act, there is nothing to keep suppliers from incorporating planned obsolescence into their designs.
As a company dedicated to providing customers with long-term satisfaction and supporting champions of the right to repair movement, Gotraka hopes to see ideas like planned obsolescence phased out in favour of a sustainable circular economy.
Constant demand = constant manufacture. Which naturally leads to increased carbon emissions from factories — particularly those engaging in planned obsolescence and re-sizing delicate electronics to produce new designs. Mining is another environmental problem: more and more modern tech uses precious metals/ minerals.
How Much Gold?
The World Economic Forum has estimated the worth of global e-waste at $62.5 billion - annually. That’s quite a lot of gold bars in the bin, and even more reason to save our devices as well as our planet’s precious resources.
Right To Repair’s Reps
Thanks to the efforts of some truly altruistic groups, the future is bright for the UK Right To Repair movement. But they need our support in order to continue their good work.
At Gotraka, we want to do whatever we can to highlight these groups (including future spotlight posts and newsletters). They are directly campaigning for the right to repair, upholding its ideal by maintaining a circular economy with our electronic goods.
Here are just some examples:
Mer-IT is a London-based group who have been working hard to promote a circular economy and bridge the gap of the digital divide since 2013. Not only are their efforts benefiting the environment by reducing the demand for new electronics, but since 2020 they have made a special effort to donate to those most in need.
Their site even features a map so you can see how your donated computer has helped someone. By incorporating more devices into UK right to repair legislation, Mer-IT will be able to repair and re-introduce far more electronics to the circular economy.
The Restart Project
The Restart Project is one of the larger collectives supporting the Right To Repair act, as well as other similarly-aligned groups (including Mer-IT). Their motto of ‘repair a laptop, fix the system’ is indicative of their model — grassroots programmes with big impact.
One of the most notable examples of this are the classes they frequently run. These volunteer-run community events are free, and aim to teach attendees how to fix their broken electronics. To learn more about The Restart Project you can visit their site, or sign up to the Gotraka mailing list where we have a much more in-depth look at this worthy cause planned.
Repair.eu, as the domain name suggests, is an EU organisation rather than a UK-based one like the previous groups. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t an ally in the UK’s Right To Repair movement. Everyone on the side of the Right To Repair campaign is helping to combat the global E-waste crisis. Changes made within the EU can still encourage positive change in the UK.
Repair.eu is dedicated to promoting people’s access to electronics repair. Their right to repair conference does a great job of highlighting its importance. Thomas Opsumer of IFIXIT has a personal washing machine anecdote (and we all love those) at 37m 29s which illustrates that even people with the adequate repair knowledge can’t always afford to fix tech under current right to repair legislation.
Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Repair)
We hope by this point we’ve been able to show you how important the Right To Repair movement is both globally and environmentally, and to individual consumers. You can help by donating your time or unwanted electronics to the very worthy groups mentioned above. Alternatively, by attending a class like those offered for free by The Restart Project, you can do your part while picking up some useful skills.
Spreading the word can be an incredibly valuable way to help the cause; some groups recommend posting to social media with #RightToRepair. However, keeping the people in your life informed about the movement and the groups supporting it can go a long way to empowering consumers (all the while decluttering drawers throughout the UK).
Sign up to our mailing list for further updates about this campaign and to see which charities/businesses we will be supporting in the future.