Empowering Sustainable Consumption by Giving Back to Consumers the ‘Right to Repair’
- What are the most relevant barriers consumers face today when they want to repair their products?
- How can repairability make a substantial contribution to sustainable consumption and the emergence of circular economies?
- What are the main actors and elements interacting in the repairability ecosystem?
2. Transformation towards Circular Economy
3. Repairability from a Consumer Point of View
- Assembly repair: This repair type does not require any skill or knowledge. A good example here would be putting product parts together, gluing, or binding them.
- Medium level repair: This repair type consists of activities which require some level of skill and knowledge like glue knowledge, material knowledge.
- Advanced level repair: This repair type includes activities that require advanced skills and knowledge, such as changing the screen of a laptop.
3.1. Repairing, an Opportunity for Industry
3.2. Design for Repair
3.3. Factors Inhibiting Repairability
3.3.1. Lack of Knowledge on How Products Work
3.3.2. Lack of Spare Parts, Technical Information, and Restricted Contracts
3.3.3. Lack of Economic Incentives to Repair a Product
3.3.4. Lack of Emotional and Economic Attachment to Products
3.3.5. Lack of Design and Manufacturing Features Allowing Repairs
4. ‘Right to Repair’ a Push Forward Sustainable Consumption
´Right to Repair´
5. Discussion: Guidelines for a More Comprehensive "Right to Repair"
- Producers should support repair done by the users, providing a market of spare parts, technical information, and avoiding obstacles like specialized tooling required to perform the repair.
- Producers should allow third parties to perform repairs of their products for the benefit of the users and also as a business strategy to build networks that facilitate the development of circular systems of production and consumption. This will, in turn, open up new challenges to redesign legal responsibilities and economic obligations (e.g. warranties) around repaired products.
- Businesses should consider repairability as a desired condition of their products. Instead of perceiving repairability as a potential risk for their economic survival, they should design business models where repairability constitutes a new stream of income and an attractive way to approach and get to know their users and their own products better. This change will likely be motivated by new political directives and increased awareness of consumers. It must be noted that an increase of repair services could have significant effects on the economy overall. It is estimated that an increase of 1% of this sector would increase the EU Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 7.9 billion EUR through direct and indirect impacts .
- New directives about repairability as a viable alternative to extend the lifespan of products and keep them rotating in circular systems should influence curriculums and academic programs. This influence should be manifested by designers and engineers being better prepared to make products that will be repaired, make products that people want to take care of and are motivated to repair for emotional and economic reasons, and to understand repairability as part of a larger system (circular economy).
- Laws and directives should provide physical and digital infrastructure to promote repairs. It means spaces to perform repairs, to share knowledge and experiences, to hold tools and develop strong community relationships around repair. Some of these initiatives already exists, like repair cafes, and websites like ifixit. These have proven to be attractive initiatives for tech savvies and also for novice users. They have to prove that repair communities are not a niche issue, as we argue that all people benefit from a better repair space. A recent EU report showed that 64% of over 12,000 EU nationals who participated in a survey repair broken products and 12% have previously self-repaired products . It is a myth that overall repair is a niche issue.
- Product design should consider embedding features that facilitate repairs, giving, for example, information to the user when a product is failing, or when a part needs to be replaced. This information system can go directly into the product or in supporting services.
- Warranty contracts should be more flexible to allow third parties to participate in the repair process without punishing the user for doing so.
- Markets should be regulated to avoid the emergence of perverse incentives favoring replacement of products over repairing. In economic terms, to repair a product should be cheaper than to by a new one. This condition can be different in some cases, but in general, materials and energy embedded into a product should be protected, keeping the products in the system for the longest time possible.
- Directives and institutions should help re-frame repair as an exciting and innovation-driven activity. It is often the case that the language of innovation is reserved for the new “bright and shiny tools”  (p. 227) and not for conservation and maintenance duties. Integral repair policies should help to change our usual perceptions of repair as a tedious and mechanical experience by stimulating innovation and creative ways to showcase and practice repair.
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Hernandez, R.J.; Miranda, C.; Goñi, J. Empowering Sustainable Consumption by Giving Back to Consumers the ‘Right to Repair’. Sustainability 2020, 12, 850. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030850
Hernandez RJ, Miranda C, Goñi J. Empowering Sustainable Consumption by Giving Back to Consumers the ‘Right to Repair’. Sustainability. 2020; 12(3):850. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030850Chicago/Turabian Style
Hernandez, Ricardo J, Constanza Miranda, and Julian Goñi. 2020. "Empowering Sustainable Consumption by Giving Back to Consumers the ‘Right to Repair’" Sustainability 12, no. 3: 850. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030850