Chloé Mikolajczak maintains that the smartphone where you will probably read this article should last ten years. The battery needs to be replaced in five seconds, just like the solid, reliable, plug-and-play cell phones that sit in so many drawers. All equipment, which would be built without using child labor and respecting the rules of fair trade, should only be disassembled with a multi-purpose screwdriver. And the parts would be available within working days during the decade warranty that the Software would also support.
“At the moment, even if you try to keep your devices as long as possible, you often cannot repair them because the way they are made makes repairs too difficult, too technical or too expensive”, begins by saying from Brussels the coordinator of the Repair EU campaign, which brings together organisations, repair companies, community repair initiatives and public institutions.
If 77% of citizens of the European Union (EU) say they prefer to repair their property, only 11% have repaired mobile phones that have broken down, notes the activist. The campaign is lobbying the EU to legislate on the right to repair, “which begins where the manufacturer’s right to manufacture a non-repairable product ends”.
“A smartphone ten years seems like a challenge, but it is well within our reach,” reads a letter sent by the campaign to the European Commission at the end of 2021, and signed by 100 organisations, including the Portuguese Lipor and the Repair Café. Lisbon.
As the smart phones become more powerful and expensive, people tend to cling more to devices, and it becomes more difficult for manufacturers to launch new features that can entice consumers to rush to stores (5G mobile network technology could be the necessary motivation as saturated markets will again spend hundreds of euros on a new device, but still have to wait for a significant improvement in service).
The lifespan of a smartphone fell from 23.4 months in 2016 to 26.2 months in 2018 in the five European countries analyzed by the consulting firm Kantar Worlpanel (France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain). But it is only after 25 years of mobile phone use that the emissions resulting from the production and end-of-life processing of the device begin to be offset, the coalition of non-governmental organizations has calculated. Coolproducts, eco-design apologists.
According to the Right to Repair campaign, 210 million smart phones each year, nearly seven per second. “The manufacture of each of these phones generates between 40 and 80 kilograms of CO2 (the equivalent of a three-hour car journey),” the campaign says. Extend the life of the smart phones in the EU could save 2.1 million tonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to data from Coolproducts.
“By going further and extending the shelf life from three to ten years, 6.2 million tonnes per year would be saved by 2030, a 42% reduction in the overall product footprint,” continues Repair. EU. “This is the right level of ambition for a continent in search of carbon neutrality,” says Chloé Mikolajczak.
A year ago, the EU required manufacturers of washing machines, refrigerators and television screens to make parts and instruction manuals available to professional repairers for at least ten years after the withdrawal of the market product. Mobile phones and computers are the next target of eco-design directives.
E-waste increases by 4% every year
Repair and maintain are two central verbs of climate action. This is all the more important when we know that “80% of the climate impact of our devices occurs during the manufacturing phase”.
“Think of the time when we extracted lithium, copper, even gold, on the other side of the world”, says Chloé, whose campaign she coordinates around mobile phones and tablets In the coming months. “Many of these materials are necessary for the energy transition. They are needed to build solar panels, essential to build wind turbines. And for now, we use them for equipment that stays in our pocket for an average of two years. Four to five years in the case of computers.
Increasingly concerned about electrical and electronic waste, which is increasing by 4% each year, one of the highest household waste growth rates in the world, some countries in the European Union have good examples of measures aimed at to force manufacturers to produce repairable and durable products, but “no country is exceptional in this respect”.
France was the first European country to introduce the mandatory repairability index in five categories of electronic devices that are almost ubiquitous in our lives.
One of the limitations of the 1-10 rating system “is that manufacturers rate their own products.” But the scale, which can be compared to the energy efficiency index, has brought changes not only to consumers, who can make more informed choices, but also to manufacturers, who for the first time have made available product repair information, in order to get a better rating.
The Council and the European Parliament have shown growing support for a European-wide repairability index, the methodology of which will also have to include the cost of repair, according to Repair EU. “Even if the product is repairable, if the repair costs too much, people will replace it,” he says. The index could be a reality as early as 2023, in the smart phones, tablets and the computers present in the energy consumption labeling scheme.
Another example is the Well repair shop in Vienna, Austria. Thanks to the action of the non-profit association Eco Consulting, citizens can recover up to one hundred euros on repair bills for bicycles, telephones or washing machines.
Electronic equipment accounted for more than 60% of the 26,000 repairs subsidized with public funds, contributing to a 3.75% drop in electronic waste in the capital in 2021, revealed the town hall’s environmental service. The experiences in the different parts of the central European country have been so well received that, from the beginning of 2022, the federal government has started to reimburse up to 200 euros for repairs, which must be carried out in a local workshop and certified, paid with recovery from the covid-19 pandemic.
But these bonuses are “just a first step”, said Astrid Rössler, a member of the Austrian National Council of the Greens. Smarter and more efficient product design and more funding are needed for research and development in the circular economy, he said.
learn to arrange
In Portugal, since the beginning of 2022, the warranty period has been extended to three years, “a stimulus to promote sustainability” that the Zero association has included in the six most positive facts of the environmental balance sheet of the country in 2021.
According to the United Nations, the world threw away 53.6 million tons of e-waste in 2019. Only 17.4% was properly collected and recycled. Although the fate of the remaining waste is unknown, it is “unlikely to have been managed in an environmentally sound manner”.
Landfills are one option, but the UN also names illegal exports to low-income countries, “where informal workers, including children, teenagers and pregnant women, collect, dismantle or use acid baths to extract metals and other valuable materials from discarded items”.
In Europe, right to repair activism has not filled the streets, as climate strikes have strengthened more or less simultaneously. But it made people join in repair cafes around the world and learn to take care of their own hands.
O to place iFixit has assigned a repairability rating to every new device on the market for years and provides step-by-step home repair instructions in 11 languages for 70,000 products.
“Much of the reduction in emissions is beyond my control. But if the right measures are put in place, [a reparação] it will be something accessible to everyone and, at the same time, it will have a lot of impact”, defends Chloé Mikolajczak. “People who repair do it together, share their knowledge, teach each other. I think it’s very important because that positivism and creativity is really lacking in climate action.