Why Right to Repair is Crucial to the Circular Economy 

You may have heard a lot of buzz recently about “Right to Repair” policies in California, and all around the world. Typically, this refers to laws which require manufacturers to provide documentation and resources available to the public that allow for third-party repair of electronics or appliances. Right now, with many complex electronics and appliances, there are two options available to people when it breaks down.  

  1. Send your item through the manufacturer’s repair program and wait weeks (sometimes months) for them to fix the item.  
  1. The item gets landfilled. When a manufacturer doesn’t have a repair program or repair is too costly and time-consuming, options are limited. 

You may have noticed this in your own life. In many instances, it is more expensive to repair electronics and appliances than it is to toss it into the landfill and purchase a new one! Not only is this option not environmentally friendly, but it is also costly to constantly purchase new items. How does “Right to Repair” aim to solve this? 

Take SB 244 (Eggman), the “Right to Repair Act,” which recently passed the State Legislature in California and awaits the Governor’s signature before October 14, 2023: 

“It is the intent of the Legislature to provide a fair marketplace for the repair of electronic and appliance products and to prohibit intentional barriers and limitations to third-party repair.”  

SB 244 aims to do this by requiring manufacturers to provide documentation, service and repair facilities, and parts available to “third-party repair” shops, like your local mechanic or electronics shop. Right now, manufacturers have a monopoly over parts. For example, even if your favorite local electronics shop had the know-how to repair your children’s toys, they often find it difficult to purchase the parts to do so. The only way to get those parts is to contact the manufacturer, which most likely doesn’t sell those parts. By forcing manufacturers to make those available, we can lower the cost and barriers to repairing our products, and thus keeping them out of the landfill! 

Now, the title of this post is “Why Right to Repair is Crucial to the Circular Economy.” What exactly is circular economy? Here is what the European Union defines circular economy as: 

“A model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible.” 

As an organization, RethinkWaste is committed to the ideals of circular economy. We recognize that landfills are not a renewable resource, and we should all be stewards of our environment. Right now, about 54% of our waste is still headed to a landfill, rather than being recycled.  

At RethinkWaste, we fully support a world where all appliances and electronics are repaired, recycled, and repurposed. According to CalRecycle, electronics are becoming increasingly complex and specialized, making it difficult to recycle. As a result, many of these products may not be recyclable and may become improperly disposed of. To stop that from happening, the best method available to us is extending the life of our products, and thus reducing the source of our waste. The “Right to Repair” law is one step in the right direction. Let’s keep moving forward to create a system where low-cost repairs are accessible, equitable, and easy to do!