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The recent introduction of a controversial new bill in California could point to a bright new start for consumers of used electronics.
A right to repair act could change the way electronic manufacturers share information about their products with both consumers and repair shops, with far reaching advantages down the line.
This new bill signals a potentially positive way forward with electronics repair, and it could make significant changes to the world’s e-waste issues. The bill could also provide extensive advantages for those looking to buy used or recycled electronic goods.
Read on to find out more about how manufacturers may soon be changing the way their build their products and why this change could be advantageous for you.
Why is there an e-waste problem?
There is a global issue with excessive e-waste in large part because of our current widespread attitudes toward technology and electronics.
With rapid advances in technology, there is an undeniable allure for the latest “must-have” product created by manufacturers.
For consumers, this inevitably creates the desire to own the newest technology and, in the process, abandon the existing products you might own that are rendered obsolete. These products most often have plenty of useful life within them.
As a result of this high turnover in electronics, 50 million tons of e-waste is produced every year. Less than 14% of this e-waste is recycled, and much of it ends up in landfill.
That’s why we believe in disposing of e-waste safely and correctly, as the materials used can often release toxic chemicals into the environment.
The problem with obsolescence
With rapid and continuous evolutions in technology, a perceived obsolescence is built in from the outset.
The demand for the latest must-haves, the new and the most advanced means that many products are rendered obsolete, even though they may still have plenty of value and usefulness in them.
This perception of obsolescence may be created through subtle shifts that do not impact the functionality of technology very much at all—something may be perceived as looking better or more contemporary—leading to older technological products being regarded as “dated.”
As you can tell, the constant pressure to have the latest and most up-to-date versions of something do not always have much to do with the technology itself, but simply how it may be presented to the consumer.
Why the Right to Repair Act could change everything
AB 2110, the Electronics Right to Repair Act, is currently working its way through the Californian state legislature. In a nutshell, this act could force electronic manufacturers to share diagnostic and repair information.
Additionally, equipment and service parts, and the information around them, could also soon be available to consumers and the repair industry.
Implementing this bill could have a dramatic impact. For example, one of the biggest advantages of this bill, if passed, is that e-waste could be diverted from the landfill at massively higher rates.
As well as reducing landfill waste, laws like the Right to Repair Act could also pave the way for greater affordability, as repair shops and the like may be able to reduce material usage and stimulate local economies.
The Right to Repair Act could then enable the repair industry to source parts for reassembling much more easily, or reuse electronics that may only need minor repairs, thus cutting down on the amount of e-waste that is generated around the world.
This is not just a distant dream. In fact, several states have already taken steps to force manufacturers to make electronics more reusable.
Sixteen states have already introduced right to repair legislation, and the nonprofit Repair Association has already mounted a lobbying push in other states.
Including recycling into the design process can help
Recycling-orientated design does not detract from any of the advantages offered by the latest technology. Instead, it actually adds more benefits.
A U.K.-based program manager recently said that it may sound counter-intuitive to design a product so it can more readily be taken apart, but doing so could continue to add value to products that have reached the end of their life.
Simple steps can be taken to integrate recycling into the manufacturing process.
Components most likely to fail can be designed so that they can be easily changed when required while abandoning components that rely predominantly on new parts that cannot be changed.
The European Union is one of the main groups advocating for greater repairability for electronics.
A member of the France Parliament suggested that batteries should no longer glued into electronic devices but rather screwed in so that consumers could be encouraged not to throw away their devices when the battery breaks down.
“We need to make sure that consumers are aware of how long the products last and how they can be repaired,” the member of the France Parliament said.
This momentum toward reuse and upcycling has even been recognized by big players such as Samsung and Apple who have both announced that they will be using more recycled components.
The benefits of recycling
Recycling has a host of benefits—not least of all, increasing the lifespan of used electronics.
Products designed with this technology in mind could be more easily reusable, such as computers, phones and tablets.
Recycling and repair don’t just provide greater convenience.
Moving the industry toward more reusable devices could also mean that valuable electronic equipment such as medical or server equipment could also be used for a lot longer, greatly adding to their value, and reducing overall costs.
For customers in the market for used electronics, this could be one of the most positive trends in recent years, helping both to tackle the serious e-waste problem of the manufacturing industry and tackling perceived obsolescence by showing that these products still have worth and usefulness.