The message is simple: we should have the right to repair the stuff we bought. The wastefulness of Global North negatively impacts the overall quality of life for those in Global South.
It’s in our best interest to keep things functional for as long as we can maintain it that way. Not only that, it’s also in the best interest of our environment, to not just throw away broken things without even trying to repair them. The least we can do is to wear them down until they can longer be fixed, so we don’t have to be digging up earth for precious metals or cutting down trees for wood, or pull crude oil for plastics, or what have you.
Here in the Philippine archipelago, we repair our stuff when it breaks, or we ask someone who knows how to do so. Thanks to our many skilled technicians, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, masons, tailors, artisans, woodworkers, metalworkers, and every repairperson in between, because without them and their ingenuity, keeping our stuff working for as long as possible would be hard life to be in.
We shouldn’t support companies that lobby against this right, like Apple,1 even though, more recently they seem to be changing their gears.2 Remember, any seemingly switch in their stance to appeal to consumers is just a PR move and a business decision. 3
Some companies would even invoke the law to lobby against your right to repair. At least in the US, Clean Air Act is used as an argument by automobile manufacturers and heavy equipment makers. Quoting from the iFixit week of 18 July 2022 report Is the Clean Air Act Pro-Repair?:
[L]obbyists for industry groups like the Equipment Dealers Association (EDA) as well as owners of agricultural equipment dealers have warned of the dire risks should ordinary equipment owners or “unauthorized” (that is, independent) repair professionals get their hands on diagnostic and repair tools that control the levers of emissions control systems designed to satisfy the Clean Air Act and prevent harmful pollution. Stopping right to repair laws that would provide access to such tools and information is tantamount to saving the environment and keeping our air clear of smog and pollution, they argue.4
Big companies will try to maintain as much control over their products as possible by:
- closed-source schematics;
- monopoly of replacement parts, if there’s any at all;
- limiting the number of “certtified” service centers;
- making it hard for third-party technicians to get accreditation;
- labeling independent repair shops as “unauthorized”;
- using proprietary tools and limiting the public’s access to them;
- and other things that can only be “good for the[ir] business.”
As you can already tell, maximizing profit does not end with you buying their product.
What can be done
We should all be considering what would eventually happen to stuff we end up giving/throwing away. This goes beyond consumer electronics, though. We should be repairing any stuff ranging from furniture, agriculture and farming, automotive, clothing, medical device repair, etc.
Here are a few more thoughts.
Manuals and schematics (two copies, ideally: one hard copy, one soft copy, and the latter should be readily available on the internet, preferably under permissive license5) should be provided along with the product, including, among others, the necessary steps to maintain it, troubleshooting problems, and a working list of entities and/or individuals capable of more technical repair should we find the problem beyond our skills.
Replacement parts, and the needed tools, should be made available to everyone.
Products should be designed to be repaired, not thrown away.
Read the manual. This documentation will tell you the do’s and dont’s when using the product. The good ones even explain how to troubleshoot should there be a problem, or at least point you to a direction (e.g. website for more info).
If it applies, do a preventive maintenance, which in its core is just regularly checking your devices, and/or fixing them before they break. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask a trusted technician.
One of the best ways we can reduce our consumption under Capitalism is by supporting our right to repair.
To do that, we have to strongly consider repairing any broken items first,
before even thinking of disposing them.
Koebler, J. (2017, May 5). Apple Is Lobbying Against Your Right to Repair iPhones, New York State Records Confirm. Motherboard: Tech by Vice. https://www.vice.com/en/article/nz85y7/apple-is-lobbying-against-your-right-to-repair-iphones-new-york-state-records-confirm ↩︎
Goldheart, S. (2020, July 31). Apple Strangely in Agreement with us about Repair. IFixit. https://www.ifixit.com/News/43088/apple-strangely-in-agreement-with-us-about-repair ↩︎
Apple. (2021, November 17). Apple announces Self Service Repair. Apple Newsroom. Retrieved December 5, 2021, from https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2021/11/apple-announces-self-service-repair/ ↩︎
Roberts, P. (2022, July 26). Is the Clean Air Act Pro-Repair? Repair Roundup Week of July 18 | iFixit News. iFixit. https://www.ifixit.com/News/62857/is-the-clean-air-act-pro-repair-repair-roundup-week-of-july-18 ↩︎
There are many permissive licenses to choose from. Start here: https://creativecommons.org/ ↩︎