Frequently asked questions
Currently a project of Zero Waste Washington, supported through a Public Participation Grant from the Department of Ecology, Repair Economy Washington is a collaborative initiative built by fixers, tool librarians, and makers throughout Washington State (with a little help from our PNW neighbors!). Its purpose is to connect and provide support to individuals working or volunteering in one of these domains as well as raise awareness about the importance of repair and increase access to it.
Why repair and share? Because it’s fun! It’s empowering! It can save you money… And did we mention it keeps more money circulating locally which supports job creation and investment?! But there’s even more to it than that.
Our predecessors often had no choice but to repair they had and share resources between families, neighbors, even entire communities. Resources were limited and our forbearers, knowing this, took care of what they had and relied on each other for what they didn’t. Today, we find ourselves in a social and economic climate that insists we consume ever more, indeed, that our happiness and status depend on it… that we “deserve” it. But that message rings false with our own experience: more new stuff isn’t actually making us happier. And it comes in sharp contrast with the reality of limited resources and a growing awareness about the collective impact of our individual choices.
From the exploitation and endangerment of workers, to overflowing landfills and oceans full of plastic, what and how we consume matters. To move forward, it may help to embrace some of the principles of the past. We can even lean on an old adage for guidance: “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without.” And having looked at where we’ve been, we can plot a new course, a better course – one that leverages past lessons in service of a cleaner, more just, and happier future.
We have the skills. We have the tools. And we have the power to make it happen. Let’s do this already!
Fix it. Make it. Mend it. Share it!
A great way to get involved is to contact the repair group, tool library, or makerspace closest to you (either on the home page map or through the listings on the respective pages). If there’s nothing nearby and you’d like to start something, let us know! Email us a firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also learn more about local and national legislative efforts around Right to Repair and Extended Producer Responsibility. See the FAQs below for more!
Fundamentally, Right to Repair is about individuals reclaiming true ownership of their belongings by being able to fix them when they break. Manufacturers have made it increasingly difficult to repair items through restricting access to parts, requiring specialized tools, even through the design of the item itself. The Right to Repair movement seeks to counteract this by advocating for legislation that requires manufacturers to adopt practices that enable repair.
R2R in WASHINGTON STATE
Right to Repair (HB1212): Promoting the fair servicing and repair of digital electronic products to increase access to appropriate and affordable digital products, support small businesses and jobs, and enhance digital connectivity in Washington state. Championed by Representative Mia Gregerson. Requires digital electronic product manufacturers, such as Apple and Microsoft, to make available electronic and repair information, parts, and tools related to independent repair. This bill makes it possible for small businesses to do repairs of cellphones and other items with motherboards and screens. This way, people will keep using their items instead of tossing them! Based on SHB 1342/SB 5799 from last year. STATUS: Did not pass this session. Scheduled for executive session but no action taken in the House Committee on Consumer Protection & Business at 10:00 am on February 15, 2021
The Top 5 Right to Repair Wins of 2020 – from iFixit
Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), also sometimes known as Product Stewardship, refers to policies and practices that shift the “end-of-life” management of a product and its packaging back to the manufacturer of the product. That is, manufacturers have to figure out what to do with items when consumers are done using them. This can apply to items as simple as beverage containers and as complex as electronic devices.
Policies like EPR are known as “upstream” work, i.e. – they focus on addressing the source of an issue, whereas “downstream” efforts more often involve individuals and the public sector (like nonprofits and municipal recycling entities). Extended producer responsibility reduces the burden on individuals and public sector programs to solve huge problems (like solid waste) by making manufacturers responsible for their products throughout the life-cycle. It further encourages manufacturers to design and produce products more conscientiously, again, with the full life-cycle in mind. Operating with this principle, the goal is to encourage development of products that are more repairable, reusable, durable, and have fewer toxic materials.
Planned obsolescence is essentially designing a product so that it is “made to break.” This design method artificially builds in “failure” – often by using non-durable materials that are unable to withstand repeated use over time, making an item non-upgradable (often with technology), or preventing repair and replacement of parts.
This is related to but slightly different than perceived obsolescence (sometimes referred to as relative or emotional obsolescence). Perceived obsolescence is best characterized by “new styles” or “latest models” of various goods. Obsolescence in these cases is more about the superficial qualities of an item rather than its mechanics or functionality. Good examples are changing hemlines, sleeker shapes, and newly available colors.
A subset of the circular economy movement, the notion of a ‘repair economy’ is gaining traction as a way to extend the life of things we love, empower people, build community, and reduce our material impact on the environment.
“Repair is discouraged by unavailable replacement parts, glued assemblies and tamper-proof cases that are difficult to open. So we discard things rather than fix them.Much research suggests this harms more than the natural environment. It also affects our mental environment. There’s a connection between the way society treats material objects and the way it treats people….Returning to an economy of repair could help create a kinder, more inclusive society. By mending broken things we might also help mend what’s broken in ourselves….Repair economies don’t regard material things as expendable. They relocate value in the workings, relations and meanings of things. By contrast, consumer economies encourage us to relate with products in ways that damage the planet and promote a kind of learned helplessness.” – Katherine Wilson from “Mending hearts: how a ‘repair economy’ creates a kinder, more caring community”