Fairphone via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

We generate way too much waste, and companies intentionally make things harder to repair. We're backing reforms to give you what you need to fix your stuff.

You buy stuff. It breaks or doesn't work right. You could throw it away and buy new stuff, but you'd rather repair it. But then you find out you can't do it yourself, you can't even bring it to a third party repair shop. You have to bring it back to the original company, which can charge an arm and a leg because there's no competition—and sometimes they just won’t fix it. And you decide to throw the thing away.

It means more cost to consumers, and also means more waste. Americans dispose of 416,000 cell phones per day, and only 15 to 20 percent of electronic waste is recycled. 

We imagine a different kind of system, where instead of throwing things out, we reuse, salvage and rebuild. But that means taking on the big companies who would push us into buying more and throwing more away. The goal of our Right to Repair campaign is to give every consumer and small business access to the parts, tools and service information they need to repair products so we can keep things in use and reduce waste.

From Smartphones To Tractors

A recent example from the COVID-19 pandemic highlights why Right to Repair reforms are needed.

In the fall of 2020, school districts across the nation experienced a shortage of 5 million laptops. Disruptions in the supply chain that delayed orders for new computers, and families were scrambling to equip their students with little luck. We have manufactured enough laptops and tablets to meet this need, but many fixable devices end up in the waste stream because manufacturers restrict repair. Right to Repair would mean devices stay in use and provide low-cost options for people who just need a working computer.

Additionally, modern farm equipment, increasingly software driven, is getting harder to fix. When manufacturers restrict access to the software tools needed to repair broken tractors, farmers are left out in the cold. They are forced to rely on dealerships to fix their equipment, which can lead to lengthy delays and inflated repair bills. With fields to be plowed, planted and harvested, farmers don’t have the time to wait for a dealer. They need to be able to fix their own stuff.

Medical Right to Repair key to patient care

Manufacturers of ventilators, dialysis machines and other critical medical devices routinely restrict access to essential repair materials. That leaves hospital repair technicians, commonly known as biomeds, without the tools they need to fix medical equipment as soon as it breaks. Instead, they have to wait days, weeks or even a month for a manufacturer-branded technician to travel onsite and make the repair well within the biomed’s capabilities. In the meantime, that broken ventilator can’t be used to deliver life-saving treatment to a patient.

By providing biomeds with the materials they need, Medical Right to Repair would improve patient care and reduce hospital’s need to rely on costly manufacturer repair. U.S. PIRG works with hospitals, independent service organizations and hundreds of biomeds from all across the country to reduce repair restrictions. 

Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have an important role to play in securing Medical Right to Repair. If you’re a healthcare worker, sign our letter of support.

Half the States Filed Legislation in 2021

As more and more supporters call for the ability to fix their equipment, 40 states have introduced right to repair since 2018, including 27 states with active bills in 2021. From Hawaii to Nebraska, Massachusetts to Washington, Right to Repair legislation has attracted bipartisan support as a common-sense reform.

We know it works. Right to Repair has already been applied to auto-repair so that parts and tools needed for repair are available to customers and independent mechanics, not just dealerships. It's time we expanded this policy to all electronic products.

Wide-Ranging Coalition Key To Progress

We are building on a successful idea, with a broad coalition that appeals to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. More and more, people are experiencing this problem firsthand, especially as our smartphones struggle to last two years, and are so difficult to repair. Together with farmers—who can’t fix farm equipment without the manufacturers doing the repairs—repair businesses, and consumers who care about waste, we are working to pass Right to Repair legislation in the states.

Junked By Design

Junked by Design is a blog series about stuff that’s not made to last or be repaired. Junked by Design dives deep into planned obsolescence and examines gadgets that are bricked, or rendered useless, far before their rightful end, and others that are doomed to become e-waste from the start. Read on to learn which electronics were designed to be junk, and why Right to Repair, which would remove manufacturer-imposed barriers to fixing our stuff, is critical to reclaiming the agency of ownership to make our technology last. 

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APPLE: RESPECT OUR RIGHT TO REPAIR

In order for Apple to meet its commitment to carbon neutrality, it's time for it to rethink its approach to the right to repair. Expanding repair access will reduce the amount of electronic waste that accumulates in our environment and the emissions released during the manufacturing of new devices. Join U.S. PIRG and thousands of supporters like you in calling on Apple CEO Tim Cook to support our right to repair today.