Why Europe’s New Efforts to Tackle Unfixable Gadgets Are So Important

Sustainability should start with repairability

Nathan Proctor
OneZero
Published in
6 min readOct 4, 2019

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Taken By Kyle Wiens, iFixit.com, of many members of the European Right to Repair campaign in Berlin at the Berlin Climate march on Friday, Sept. 20.

Nathan Proctor is director of the Right to Repair Campaign for U.S. PIRG, an advocacy organization.

TThere’s been an increasing amount of attention paid to making technology more sustainable, but the first step must be repairability. Being able to properly service our gadgets and extend their lifespans reduces waste, preserves natural resources, and saves consumers money. But we’ve seen a steady trend in recent years of major tech manufacturers refusing to sell spare parts, hoarding relevant documentation, and using software locks to prevent third-party repairs.

In order to defend repair for the future, a coalition of policy advocates like myself — tinkerers, fixers, DIYers, technicians, STEM educators, and consumers — have pushed “Right to Repair” reforms, which require companies to give people what they need to fix their stuff.

Now a new push from advocates in the European Union may transform the face of gadget repair around the world. Manufacturers who have worked to oppose Right to Repair, like Microsoft and Apple, along with trade associations like the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), should be nervous.

Repair.eu launches

In September, a new European Right to Repair coalition, Repair.eu, launched at FixFest in Berlin. The group was formed with support from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the Restart Project, ECOS, iFixit Europe, and Runder Tisch Reparatur (Repair Roundtable), among other allies.

I went to Berlin to help the coalition work through some initial strategy. Organizers hosted free community repair events, such as “Restart Parties,” where experts teach people how to fix their gadgets. It’s clear that people are getting fed up with unrepairable equipment.

In 2019, we saw that frustration on this side of the pond spur legislation in 20 states across the country, a formal workshop by the Federal Trade Commission, an inquiry by Congress

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Nathan Proctor
OneZero

Running campaigns to advance a more sustainable economy that works for people. #RightToRepair advocate