In November last year, amid growing pressure from consumers, investors, regulators and repair advocates, Apple announced a new Self Service Repair program*. As it rolls out this year, iPhone owners will be able to order over 200 Apple parts and tools, along with repair manuals, to conduct basic smart phone repairs like screen and battery replacements in the comfort of their home.
Electronics that are difficult to repair are bad for the environment as users are disincentivised from repairing, instead often choosing to buy new devices. This creates e-waste as well as adding to the emissions footprint of manufacturing goods. Approximately 81% of an iPhone 13’s carbon emissions come from its production, so the climate benefits by extending its lifespan.
“If every American used their cell phones just one year longer, it would have the same environmental benefit as taking 636,000 cars of the road for a year,” Nathan Proctor, senior director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s campaign for the right to repair, told Grist magazine.
Earlier, in October 2021, the investor advocacy non-profit As You Sow, successfully campaigned Microsoft to assess the environmental and social benefits of the right to repair. As a result, Microsoft agreed to analyse how increasing access to parts and guidance on how to repair its products could significantly reduce its contribution to e-waste and climate change more generally. The company agreed to act on its findings swiftly, marking a first-of-its-kind commitment. A month later, Apple followed suit, announcing its repair program.
Together, these commitments mark a decisive victory in the right-to-repair movement. And while Apple has been criticised by environmental groups for only enabling the repair of their latest phone models (with the intention to soon add Mac computers to the list), the move has the potential to create significant momentum in the industry.
The right to repair movement is also gathering momentum in Australia, with the Productivity Commission’s ‘Right to Repair’ report released late last year recommending the federal government amend laws to give consumers more rights. The commission also recommended improved consumer warranties that allow for self-repair and the consumer watchdog be given greater powers to punish companies that don’t comply.
*The Self Service Repair program is being rolled out in the US, followed by other countries throughout 2022.
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