Dr Lukasz Porwol

Insight Society: Supporting the right to repair

Submitted on Monday, 11/09/2023

Built in obsolescence is a societal problem that has largely crept up on the general public. The practice is unsustainable from an environmental perspective and expensive for consumers. The practice has led to a broad discussion about the rights of consumers to repair items they own. The story below, first appeared as part of #InsightSustainability.

Insight at the University of Galway is a partner in a European Project called Share Repair. The objective of Share Repair is to create a digital infrastructure to support people who wish to repair rather than replace their electrical items.

The project addresses the increasing amount of waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). WEEE is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the EU, growing at 3-5% a year. Consumption of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), and therefore production of WEEE, is very high throughout the NWE region (Eurostat 2016, EEE products put on the market). At the same time, NWE is home to a growing citizen repair movement (10,000+ volunteers), attempting to fight back against this upsurge in waste. However, their impact remains small, even though consumers indicate a high willingness to repair. Hence, there is a large gap between intent and actual behaviour, due to a lack of convenient and accessible repair solutions.

The project aims to decrease WEEE from consumer products by scaling up citizen repair initiatives through the use of digital tools: digital tools that stimulate and facilitate citizen repair by collecting repair solutions and making them easily accessible to citizens. The tools target both consumers at home and more skilled repairers in repair caf├ęs. They also map and guide citizens towards high-quality professional repair services, and assemble, with the help of designers, a database of 3D-printing designs (open-source) for printing replacement parts.

Part of the project has looked at the devices and appliances that are repaired most often. Insight’s Dr Lukasz Porwol says, “Devices like coffee makers, laptops and vacuum cleaners are the most repaired devices. The conclusion could be that these are the most repairable devices, but that could also mean they break very often. This project is an important stepping stone towards raising awareness of the possibility of repair and encouraging people to consider repair rather than replacement as an economical and sustainability benefitting behaviour.”

You can read more about it here.