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BOSTON -- The new MASSPIRG report released Tuesday, “What Bay Staters are Fixing,” reveals how Massachusetts ends up with millions of pounds of avoidable electronic waste and the Right to Repair campaign’s efforts to remedy that situation. Furthermore, the report examines how the COVID-19 pandemic exposed obstacles that face Massachusetts consumers who try to fix their products affordably and on their own terms. Describing the Right to Repair as “good for our pocketbooks and good for the planet,” the report’s authors spotlight the financial and ecological benefits of expanded consumer rights.
“Because of monopolies on repair and relentless marketing of new products, our society extracts an enormous amount of raw materials from the earth, only to toss out the finished items they compose a few short years later,” said Janet Domenitz, Executive Director of MASSPIRG “Because of barriers to repair, we waste a staggering amount of materials and money, which can have devastating repercussions for both our planet and our family finances.”
On average, each American family disposes of about 176 pounds of highly toxic electronic waste each year, waste that pollutes our land and water. Not surprisingly, many people replace those junked devices with new ones -- and 165 pounds of raw materials are required just to produce one 8-ounce cellphone. Overall, if Americans repaired those electronics instead of replacing them, it would save $40 billion each year. According to a review of data from iFixit, which describes itself as the “repair guide for everything written by everyone,” over 2 million unique users from Massachusetts went to www.iFixit.com to look up how to repair something in 2020. Of those visitors, many attempted to repair cell phones, laptops, and tablets.
A bill to establish the digital right to repair, HB 341/SB 166 — different from the automobile right to repair effort that ended up on the ballot in 2020 — has been pending in the Massachusetts Legislature for several years. The bill’s chief sponsors, state Rep. Claire Cronin and state Sen. Michael Brady, have garnered more than 75 co-sponsors.
Popular with consumers across the political spectrum, the Right to Repair campaign is gaining momentum. On July 9, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to better protect consumers’ right to repair. In a July 21 decision, the FTC unanimously voted to enforce existing laws safeguarding this right, signalling to manufacturers to change their policy. The coalition of supporters in Massachusetts includes environmentalists, DIY enthusiasts, farmers, academics, small business owners and others.
"Repair restrictions can affect communities in many ways, especially those in low-income areas,” said Alex Castillo, owner of DigiTech Electronic Solutions in Roslindale, Mass. “In my eight-plus years serving my community, I’ve seen the number of devices we can prevent from going to landfills by extending their life cycle, as well as the amount of money our community can save. But restrictions are limiting the amount of devices we can save and are forcing people to replace expensive devices. This action will help me cut through these restrictions and continue to help my neighbors [in Roslindale].”
Read “What Bay Staters are Fixing” at (link) for stories and statistics highlighting why state lawmakers need to take immediate action to protect the Right to Repair.
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