E-waste: Europe’s ‘right to repair’ beneficial for the environment, should spur more jurisdictions to adopt similar rules

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March 4, 2021 5:00 AM

Companies and governments need to work in tandem to invest in recycling technologies and focus on research that can make more parts recyclable.

The EU, earlier this week, cleared the ‘right to repair’ Bill for some items.The EU, earlier this week, cleared the ‘right to repair’ Bill for some items.

While the world generated close to 20 million tonnes of e-waste in 2000, this has increased to 50 million tonnes now. A report by United Nations University suggests that by 2050, the world will generate 111 million tonnes of e-waste per year. Although a significant reason for this is the rising number of gadgets per person, consumerism is also to blame, with people replacing their gadgets every few years; companies, on their part, are more interested in selling new devices than mere components. However, a recent change in the European rules may spur a reversal of this trend. The EU, earlier this week, cleared the ‘right to repair’ Bill for some items. Companies will have to provide parts for items like TVs, washing machines, etc, for at least 10 years. The move comes when the ‘disposable economy’ is hurting consumers and the environment. The Bill does not apply to cell phones as of now, but activists have been rallying to get them under the purview of the new law. In the US, 17 states have passed right to repair laws.

The right to repair does have its limitations. With technology changing fast, there is an effort from consumers also to upgrade their devices. Thus, companies and governments need to work in tandem to invest in recycling technologies and focus on research that can make more parts recyclable. For instance, while countries are fast moving towards electric vehicles, most do not possess the wherewithal to recycle batteries, which have a life-cycle of just 8-10 years.

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