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Perspective: The 'right to repair' is the right thing to do

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Kilian Seiler
/
Unsplash

A friend recently ended up in the ER. Here’s what happened. He was attempting to replace the monitor on his iMac. The screen slipped out of his hands, broke in the fall, and cut his left wrist just a fraction of an inch from the artery. There was blood everywhere. Fortunately, he was able to get to the ER and is recovering from the injury.

But this accident points to a problem. All of these wonderful and convenient digital devices are intentionally designed to be difficult, if not impossible, to repair. It’s just savvy marketing. If the device is nearly impossible to fix, you will have no choice but to throw it away and buy the next new and more expensive model.

But this practice has consequences. It is estimated that Americans throw away 416,000 mobile phones per day. And with less than 20 percent of discarded electronics being recycled, that is a significant amount of e-waste. Then there’s the expense. The imperative to buy new and buy often is costly. Repair is not free, but it is a fraction of what it takes buy new.

Finally, and as my friend learned, even the best of DIY intentions are not sufficient and can even be hazardous. So what can be done? One solution is “the right to repair” — legislative initiatives that seek to provide a framework for consumers to be able to fix and upgrade their own devices. It may not be everything, but it is an important part of developing a more sustainable model.