Fairphone via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

We generate way too much waste, and companies intentionally make things harder to repair. We're building a climate of support for 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 that you can't do it yourself and 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 so, you decide to throw the thing away.

This 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 Apple highlights why Right to Repair reforms are needed.

In December of 2017, it was discovered that Apple was intentionally slowing down phones with older batteries. Apple defended this tactic by saying it was intended to reduce performance issues but had many people wondering if the tech giant was covertly pushing people to upgrade to a new phone. Regardless of intent, these issues are resolved by replacing the battery—a battery that Apple doesn’t make available to customers or unaffiliated repair businesses.

Our survey found that this caused both a surge in third-party battery repairs and self-repair interest.

Repair is also a growing issue on farms as farmers struggle to fix newer tractors with modern electronic equipment. To fix a John Deere tractor, for example, the company requires that the owner take it to an authorized dealership, and John Deere has lobbied against legislation that would make it easier for people to repair their own electronics.

Wide-ranging coalition key to progress

Working in partnership with our 501(c)(4) sister organization U.S. PIRG, we are building on a successful idea with a broad coalition that appeals to both sides of the aisle.

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 build a climate of support to win Right to Repair policies in the states.