In an effort to cut the environmental impact of electronic goods, the European Union passed a law in 2019 that would force companies that sell products such as TVs, hairdryers, and refrigerators to ensure that those appliances can be repaired for up to 10 years. This week, the law finally came into effect, hopefully spurring a major reduction in the vast amount of electronic waste that piles up on the continent each year.
The problem with modern appliances is that they are often riveted or glued together, making it so that people need special tools in order to break open the device. Another problem is the lack of spare parts available to consumers.
“People want to repair their appliances,” said Daniel Affelt of the environmental group BUND-Berlin. “When you tell them that there are no spare parts for a device that’s only a couple of years old then they are obviously really frustrated by that.”
The new EU rules require manufacturers to ensure spare parts are available for up to a decade. In addition, new devices will have to come with repair manuals and be made in such a way that they can be dismantled using conventional tools.
While it is encouraging to see this new law come into effect, environmentalists are demanding that the “right to repair” laws are expanded to include smartphones, laptops, and other small electronic devices that also account for a great amount of e-waste.
Wondering why such laws don’t exist in the US? Well, they have been introduced to some US state legislatures and attracted bipartisan support, but a nationwide measure has yet to come into force. Individual companies, including Apple, have launched their own independent right to repair initiatives.
This story is part of our ‘Best of 2021’ series highlighting our top solutions from the year. Today we’re featuring policymaking solutions.