The Right to Repair
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago in a land far away, there used to be villages, towns and cities that had little shops that repaired things. There were cobblers, tailors, knife sharpeners and small appliance repair shops in almost every neighbourhood. If you got a hole in your sock, Mom would darn it and make it good as new.
So why don’t people repair things any more? Basically, there are two reasons: The first reason is cheap manufacturing and the second is an overabundance of those cheaply made products. As a society we’ve become extremely efficient at many things and producing cheap goods is one of them.
Take clothing for example. Just a couple of generations ago the average North American woman had one or two dresses. One was usually a “good dress”. The average man had two suits. One for work and one for Sundays and special occasions, and those clothes got mended if they began to fray or wear out.
Now clothes are so cheap to make and cost so little that we have multiple outfits for any occasion. When clothing goes out of fashion or begins to fray, usually within two years, we just toss them out and buy new ones.
Who’s zooming whom?
Say your dishwasher breaks down, what do you do? If you’re handy, you’ll try to fix it yourself, or you’ll call a repair person. But, if you do that, it invalidates the warranty on the machine. These days it’s actually easier and cheaper to throw it in the dump and buy a new one. Which is great for the manufacturer but a pain for consumers and devastating for the environment.
Today, a lot of manufacturers intentionally design products with a short lifespan – it’s called planned obsolescence. Increasing corporate profits, costing the consumer more money and jamming our landfills with more trash.
And then there’s electronics. That’s a massive corporate scam that requires a deeper exposé than we have time for here. Suffice it to say that unless you live in a cave just about everything you use daily has some kind of electronics in it.
What is the “Right to Repair” movement?
There’s a fixer movement afoot. The “Right to Repair” movement is picking up steam all around the world and in the last decade or so “repair cafes” have popped up everywhere.
Recently in Ontario, a private member’s bill has been introduced for the “Right to Repair” that would enable consumers and independent repair shops to fix cell phones and computers inexpensively. If passed, it would become the first “Right to Repair” bill for electronic devices in North America.
What can be done?
In 2003, a website was launched called iFixit, it’s a kind of online encyclopedia of repair information and has around 90,000 repair solutions for computer-related and household products.
Instead of drowning in an ocean of broken stuff let’s make the “Right to Repair” bill pass here in Ontario and make it spread around the globe. We don’t need any more landfill sites full of junk. Mantra: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
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