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Fighting for consumer rights to repair our own electronic devices

The Right to Repair campaign aims to reduce electronic waste.

Fighting for consumer rights to repair our own electronic devices

Americans discard more than 400,000 cellphones every single day, and global consumers produce more than 53 million metric tons of electronic waste each year. Most of it winds up in landfills, where “forever” chemicals inevitably leach into the soil and water. The Right to Repair campaign—led by the Public Interest Research Groups, iFixit, and Repair.org—is lobbying state legislatures to introduce bills empowering consumers to repair (rather than discard) their own devices and machines; manufacturers now block repair of products ranging from smartphones to tractors. The campaign has gradually been gaining momentum since it succeeded in pushing legislation through the Massachusetts statehouse in 2012; last year more than 20 states were considering new right-to-repair bills. “We are like a band of Davids versus an army of Goliaths,” says Nathan Proctor, director of the Right to Repair campaign for U.S. PIRG. “But we have an idea people immediately respond to.”

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Sources: Pew Research Center’s Mobile Fact Sheet, June 12, 2019 (Percentage of U.S. adults); The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, published by United Nations University; International Telecommunication Union; International Solid Waste Association (Generated by region, Generated by category)
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About the author

Noted expert on nicotine gum chewing and Hawkeye wrestling fan, Jay Woodruff is a contributing editor at Fast Company. After helping launch the quarterly DoubleTake, he joined Esquire and later held senior editorial positions at Entertainment Weekly and oversaw digital at Maxim, Blender and Stuff

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