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Right to repair

The Green Alliance thinktank has suggested that by reusing and repairing household goods, as well as recycling throwaway consumer items, could help to create hundreds of thousands of green jobs across the UK.

The UK throws away thousands of tonnes of unnecessary waste each year due, in part, to its failure to invest in the infrastructure that’s needed to re-purpose manufactured goods.

Figures suggest that each month the UK produces 133,141 tonnes of e-waste, and at 23.9kg per person the UK is only second to Norway in terms of the waste generated per person, per year. And while certainly not the worst performer the UK currently recycles just 54.5 per cent of its waste - Norway tops 70 per cent.

The Green Alliance thinktank found that prioritising the repair and reuse of manufactured goods could create more than 450,000 jobs over the next 15 years.

Many goods are currently simply thrown away, exported or broken up for recycling, which fails to reflect the value and carbon dioxide emissions arising from the energy and materials that went into their manufacture. A refurbished iPhone, for example, can be sold for about half of its original price, but when recycled is worth just 0.24%.

The research suggests that thousands of highly skilled jobs could be created in repairing complex goods such as electronics and machinery.

The Green Alliance report is urging the government to spur the development of the “circular economy” where waste is minimised and the value of resources retained, and is urging it to promote the reuse and repair of items, with recycling as a last resort.

Calls are certainly growing for the government to consider new ways to boost the reuse and repair of goods, including a right to repair, which would require manufacturers of consumer goods to design them in such a way so as to make them easier to repair, rather than scrap.

Right to repair rules have been pioneered in France, and came into force on electronic goods in the EU earlier this year.

In the UK manufacturers of white goods have to now offer limited rights of repair, and have to make spare parts available within two years of a product’s introduction, and for seven to 10 years after its discontinuation.

Oddly, computers and smartphones have been excluded.

According to the Alliance, at current rates, the growth in the circular economy remains poor and it has called for new policies that include setting a target to halve UK resource use by 2050; zero rating VAT on repairs and refurbishment; and training programmes to equip workers with the skills necessary.

All of which would seem eminently sensible!

Neil Tyler

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It's all very well having spare parts available, but are they going to be sensibly priced ? I have a Miele vacuum cleaner that's probably around 8 years old that needs a new flexible hose. The price for the replacement hose is over £100 ! I am currently patching it with duct tape. Who is going to spend that amount of money on a machine of that age ?
I am all for repairing rather than throwing away but what is there in the legislation to prevent manufacturers from pricing spare parts at an unrealistic price (from a a repairing point of view) ?

Posted by: Mike Collins, 09/08/2021
This issue has been ignored by many for too long.

Thank you to the author for mentioning that Computers and Smartphones are not included in this. Today, they will be the far largest hardware being discarded, on the one side the software manufacturers get to upgrade their operating systems, but the user must buy new hardware, so adds even more to the landfill. Therefore, hardware and software manufacturers get the public upgrading every two years (and more profits).

Posted by: Richard Atkinson, 08/08/2021

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