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Restart Radio: Reflecting on a challenging but successful 2021

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As 2021 draws to a close, Janet and Ugo reflected on this precarious but successful year. Despite many setbacks, we have made great strides towards the Right to Repair in both the UK and the EU – even though there is still a long way to go. In London, Restarters have also done a fantastic job supporting each other and their communities in many new ways. 

This year’s top stories

The announcement of the French Repairability Index back in January set the year off on a promising trajectory for Right to Repair policy. While the Index is not perfect by any means, we discuss how it set a precedent for how other countries (and hopefully the EU) can and have been implementing repairability ratings on retail products. Countries that have followed suit include New Zealand and most recently, Spain. 

A more worrying topic we reflected on was the increase in serialisation of parts. It’s an extremely technical matter but Ugo breaks down why this practice is such a concern. We’ve spoken to multiple repairers about this issue and while sometimes solvable, it is make or break for independent repair. 

Here in the UK, the government did make moves towards Right to Repair. This summer, new regulations came into play that meant “manufacturers will have to make repair information and spare parts available for repairs for up to ten years for some new white goods and televisions.” While its a step in the right direction, we explain why it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. 

And our final story is a recent one. We discuss Apple’s announcement in November that they will give access to repair information and spare parts to US consumers. It was a shocking, and welcome, move but as we learned once again does not extend as far as is necessary. 

What changed for community repair in 2021

We are really proud of the work that our community has done this year to help those in need have better digital access. We’ve been helping London-based organisations like Mer-IT and Catbytes with their laptop reuse projects – supporting them with repairing donated laptops and running a fundraising campaign to support laptop reuse work. The digital access movement gained steam with many outlets reporting on it, especially the BBC, and repairers were able to provide vital resources to many in need. 

A lot of the laptop repair work was done by volunteers at home but as the year progressed we began to be able to repair together in person again. We talked about what that looked like and how some of the safety changes may actually be beneficial in other ways. 

We discuss how repair events are also integral to our data work, collecting information about repairs and devices. This year, we sorted and analysed a lot of our data, producing solid insights to help affect policy decisions. Some of this information was also used to inform the Right to Repair campaign’s recent report on batteries. 

What’s next

Ugo and Janet are optimistic as they share their hopes for 2022. These include more policy changes and global collaboration from the repair community. Thanks for listening to Restart Radio this year and continuing to support our work, we hope to see some of these goals come to fruition with your help!


[Feature image by Mark A Phillips, licensed under CC BY 4.0.]

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