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Restart Radio: Popular, planet-saving right to repair

Right to Repair protest

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We interview Libby Peake, Senior policy adviser at Green Alliance. We talk about the public interest in more repairable products, and we discuss the current policy debates affecting our right to repair in Europe and the UK.

First, we discuss some news. Apple is worried about the decline in iPhone sales: the company has reported to investors that this is partly due to users repairing and maintaining their current models. We also mention the recent controversy over ‘Veganuary’ with the new vegan sausage roll at Greggs, which could face a backlash against environmental awareness.

Next, we comment on the current European vote on design measures for dishwashers and washing machines. As Libby highlights, previously related measures around so-called ‘ecodesign’ have normally focused on energy efficiency, looking at how much energy products consume, rather than how long they last.

This legislation is now shifting to also include product efficiency, that is, design changes that improve durability, repairability, recyclability and product composition. This shift can raise product standards, and it pushes us to look at efficiency over the whole of a product’s lifecycle.

Citizens are asking for products that last longer, and this is clear in the Green Alliance’s recent report ‘By popular demand’. Libby tells us about this research, which resulted from several workshops and an extensive poll with over 1000 people in the UK.

Almost all respondents welcomed a better use of resources in our economy. The most supported initiative was to improve product design, and this included making things more modular so that they can be easier to repair!

Then, we talk about the need to keep pushing environmental legislation to prioritise product repairability. Our stuff should be designed to be easier to disassemble and repair, and everyone – not just professionals – should have access to spare parts.

We also talk about the new UK Waste Strategy, the first one in more than 10 years. We find it ambitious and focused on the 3 Rs (not just recycling!). It defends an extended responsibility for manufacturers to watch their products lifecycle. However, we miss more details on how this high-level strategy will be implemented.

Finally, we share how we would like to see a scenario where our right to repair could benefit both companies and consumers. Policymakers need to guide manufacturers to ensure sustainable technology, as it happened for instance with the harmonisation of phone chargers driven by the European Commission.


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