You may not think about your toaster, oven, or washing machine as an electronic appliance, but the reality is that most modern large and small appliances have electronic controls. These controls have many advantages, such as saving the settings of your favorite wash cycle or programming how long your stew will simmer in the slow cooker.
However, when the electronic components fail, the cost of replacing a circuit board for a gas range, for example, may be prohibitive, making it more economical for a homeowner to replace the entire appliance rather than attempt a repair. Thus, the whole appliance is sent to a landfill because of obstacles to repairing its electronic components.
Proposed legislation known as the Fair Repair Bill is now before the Massachusetts legislature. The first of its kind in the nation, this bill would require manufacturers to make service information available to owners of electronic devices free of charge. It would also require manufacturers to sell replacement parts to the public—so owners have the option to repair their electronics instead of just throwing them away.
Inspired by the Automotive Right to Repair act passed in Massachusetts in 2012, The Repair Association is advocating for the Fair Repair bill to bring the same principles to electronic devices. At Boston Building Resources, we have found that used appliances are among the most sought-after products in our Reuse Center.
Repair keeps electronics in use and out of local landfills, whether it’s a smartphone or a smart fridge. Despite the clear environmental benefits to extending the lifecycle of electronics, many manufacturers make it extremely difficult for consumers and local shops to make repairs. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Americans generate about 3.4 million tons of e-waste per year. According to the EPA, 75% of that e-waste is not recycled. Though e-waste makes up just 2% of the material in American landfills, it is responsible for 70% of the toxic waste there.
Repair facilitates reuse and extends the life of appliances with electronic components, saving their owners money and creating jobs in the repair sector. The Massachusetts Fair Repair Bill is now in committee (H.143 in the House and S.96 in the Senate).