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Biodiversity & Environment

Right to Repair: European Union

  • 02 Mar 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Companies that sell refrigerators, washers, hair dryers or tele-visions in the European Union (EU) will need to ensure that those appliances can be repaired for up to 10 years.

  • The “Right to Repair,” as it is sometimes called, came into force across the 27-nation from March 2021.

Key Points

  • About:
    • The Right to Repair electronics refers to government legislation that is intended to allow consumers the ability to repair and modify their own consumer electronic devices, where otherwise the manufacturer of such devices require the consumer to use only their offered services.
    • Idea of Right to Repair originally originated from the USA where the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act 2012, required the manufacturers to provide the necessary documents and information to allow anyone to repair their vehicles.
  • New Rules:
    • Under the new EU rules, manufacturers will have to ensure parts are available for up to a decade, though some will only be provided to professional repair companies to ensure they are installed correctly.
    • New devices will also have to come with repair manuals and be made in such a way that they can be dismantled using conventional tools when they really can’t be fixed anymore, to improve recycling.
  • E-Waste Generation in Europe:
    • As per the Global E-Waste Monitor 2020, Europeans produce more than 16 kilograms (kg) of electrical waste per person every year.
    • About half of that junk is due to broken household appliances, and the EU recycles only about 40% of it, leaving behind huge amounts of potentially hazardous material.
  • Significance:
    • It will help reduce the vast mountain of electrical waste (e-waste) that piles up each year on the continent.
    • It will save consumers money.
    • It will contribute to circular economy objectives by improving the life span, maintenance, re-use, upgrade, recyclability and waste handling of appliances.
    • It would tackle two manufacturing trends:
      • Cavalier attitude towards planned obsolescence.
      • Tendency on the part of manufacturers to control the repair and maintenance network.
  • Problem with Repair of Modern Appliances:
    • Need Special Tools:
      • Modern appliances are often glued or riveted together, if you need specialist tools or have to break open the device, then you can’t repair it.
    • Lack of Spare Parts:
      • Lack of spare parts is another problem, campaigners say. Sometimes a single broken tooth on a tiny plastic sprocket can be challenging work.
  • Concerns For Manufacturers:
    • Manufacturers have pushed back against a broader “right to repair” as that would hurt their ability to sell new products more frequently, and would push them to become a service provider rather than a product maker.
    • They also say allowing the consumer to repair high-technology products is a risk, think of lithium-ion batteries in cars.

E-waste in India

  • Official Data:
  • Indian Initiatives:
    • E-Waste Management Rules, 2016:
      • The rules aim to enable the recovery and/or reuse of useful material from e-waste, thereby reducing the hazardous wastes destined for disposal and to ensure the environmentally sound management of all types of waste of electrical and electronic equipment.
    • E-Waste Clinic:
      • Aimed at segregating, processing and disposal of waste.

E-Waste

  • About:
    • E-Waste is short for Electronic-Waste and the term is used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded electronic appliances. It includes their components, consumables, parts and spares.
    • It is categorised into 21 types under two broad categories:
      • Information technology and communication equipment.
      • Consumer electrical and electronics.
    • E-waste includes their components, consumables, parts and spares.

Way Forward

Such regulations could be especially valuable in a country like India, where service networks are often spotty and authorised workshops are few and far between in the hinterland. India’s informal repair sector does a good job with jugaad. But the quality of repair and maintenance services could improve substantially if such legislation was adopted

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