Fight for the right to repair old electronics


What to do with electronics and appliances that no longer work? Do you repair them or throw them away and buy new ones?

Repairing old items can be expensive, time consuming or even impossible, while throwing them away can damage the environment.

Some manufacturers make replaceable parts scarce or do not publish repair information, says Chloé Mikolajczak, an activist for the European Right to Repair movement, which calls for legislation to make it easier to repair broken items.

“Manufacturers have put so many obstacles and so many challenges in fixing old products,” she told CGTN. “This means that for many consumers, either they can’t fix it or at a very high price (which makes) buying something new that much more interesting.”


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However, while buying new may sound exciting, the environmental impact is noticeable. The majority of damage to our atmosphere from small electronic devices occurs during the energy-intensive manufacturing phase. It also consumes new resources and raw materials.

In addition, according to the United Nations, we generate around 50 million tonnes of electronic waste or electronic waste every year and less than 20% of it is recycled, which means that old microwave ovens are likely to stay in a landfill for decades.

Electronic waste is often toxic. / CGTN

Electronic waste is often toxic. / CGTN

Repair cafes

This desire to repair old objects has manifested itself in the growth of community “repair cafes” across Europe. In Germany alone, there are over a thousand such events, where knowledgeable volunteers volunteer their time to try and fix broken gadgets in their community.

Everything from old sewing machines, lamps and televisions has a chance of a second life, says Brigitte Fingerle-Trischler, organizer of a repair café in Munich.

“The range is actually quite wide,” she says. “Our repairers are very happy to do electrical things like irons and vacuum cleaners. It is very important to us that this possibility exists, that we think they should try to fix it before throwing it out. . “

One of those repairers is Hans Gall, a radio frequency engineer who has been tinkering since childhood and managed to fix Joseph’s old electric drill in minutes – “A simple fix,” he says, “who give the drill. 10 years or more of good service. “

One Saturday in Munich, members of the community gather to repair their items. / CGTN Europe

One Saturday in Munich, members of the community gather to repair their items. / CGTN Europe


Yet at the national level, progress is underway. For example, France has implemented a repairability index, which requires certain manufacturers to display a repairability score of between 1 and 10 on their products. And some Austrian states have started offering consumers a 50% subsidy for repair costs. Yet other EU countries are lagging behind, says Katrin Meyer of the German Roundtable for Reparation.

“We have seen how quickly France has been able to develop such an index and we are already seeing that manufacturers have changed their policies by publishing more information than before in order to receive more points on this repair score. see on an EU level. “

The European Commission agrees that regulating manufacturers will have a significant environmental impact, but bringing forward legislation that manufacturers will also accept is a challenge, Mikolajczak said.

“Big tech companies come to Brussels with a lot of money to put pressure on decision-makers,” she said. But once designed, this legislation is likely to have a broader scope.

“Manufacturers are not going to start making a repairable product for the EU and a non-repairable product for the rest of the world, argues Mikolajczak. These laws, if ambitious enough, will really have global implications.”

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