Written by Lucinda Flynn of Going Green Solutions
In the world of sustainability, the opportunity to buy long lasting, repairable products has been popular for ages. It makes sense not just for the planet, but for our hip pockets. It’s how our grandparents did things, and like so many things – think beeswax wraps and washable lunchboxes – we’re realising that the old ways are worthy of becoming the new ways again.
And the good news? Is that not just consumers, but also governments and businesses, are taking major steps towards making this a reality.
The Consumer ‘Right To Repair’
In late 2020, the Australian Federal government announced a productivity commission investigation into our ‘right to repair’ electronics and appliances (1 and 2). Let’s face it – something had to give. While the world is being inundated with broken e-waste, manufacturers are still designing planned obsolescence into their products, to force consumers to purchase a new one at end of life rather than repair what they have. But this investigation means that the opportunity – and even the right – to repair a broken or outdated product, is edging closer to becoming part of mainstream consumer rights in Australia.
How Might A ‘Right To Repair’ Look?
We’d love to see the same sort of ‘right to repair’ changes in Australia as having been voted in by the European parliament in late 2020 (3), making repairs more ‘appealing systematic and cost-efficient for the consumer, moving to a ‘common charger’ for electronics and adding labelling to products showing life span and durability (4). France is leading the charge starting right now, by instigating a ‘repairability’ index rating for all consumer products, so that you can see on a scale of 1 to 10, how easy to repair a product is (5 and 6).
Product Stewardship Programmes
But it doesn’t stop there. Tackling the issue of waste from another direction, Governments across the world are investing in ways to encourage product stewardship for manufacturers (6). Product stewardship is where businesses make a conscious effort to decrease the social and environmental impact of their product over its entire lifecycle, from design to disposal.
Some fantastic and well-known product stewardship programmes already up and running include Cartridges 4 Planet Ark, Mobile Muster, TechCollect, Paintback and more (7 – can also insert hyperlink https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/education/product-stewardship ). Imagine a world in which every major manufacturer had invested in ways to minimise the impact of their product – it’s a beautiful sight!
As Consumers, What Can We Do? Plenty!
Continue to choose products that are long lasting and can be easily repaired and upgraded. Push for our right to repair – let manufacturers know that this matters to you, support manufacturers that make this easy, complain to those that don’t. Support manufacturers who have a product stewardship program in place. Besides the ones listed above, there are plenty more – if you are on the market to buy a new product, search for the item and ‘product stewardship’ or ‘recycling’ and you might be surprised what you find!
And over time, let’s look forward to a world in which the products we buy are there for the long term, where e-waste becomes a small and highly recycled waste stream, where every manufacturer takes responsibility for limiting the impact of their products, and where the old ways have been turned – fully repaired and operational – back into the new.
Fantastic article! I hope the findings from this inquiry help change our manufacturing practices for good.