April 15, 2024
min reading

What is the 'Right to Repair'? New circular legislation in the EU

The EU's Right to Repair promotes product durability, reusability, upgradeability, and repairability to encourage a "closed-loop" circular system.

What is the 'Right to Repair'? New circular legislation in the EU
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The European Union's new ‘Right to Repair’ proposal paves a future for a more circular Europe. Once adopted, the new Directive will improve sustainability and circularity by promoting product durability, reusability, upgradeability, and repairability — ultimately reducing digital waste and encouraging a "closed-loop" circular system.

The EU estimates that, within 15 years, in addition to economic benefits for businesses, the 'Right to Repair' is expected to save 1.8 million tons of natural resources, prevent 3 million tons of waste, and prevent 18.5 million tons of GHG emissions.

In the article, you will learn about:

  • The European Union’s new ‘Right to Repair’ proposal
  • The obligations of manufacturers under the new law
  • How ‘Right to Repair’ will increase circularity

Find out more about how Resourcify helps businesses build zero-waste strategies and return materials to the production cycle.

What is the EU's ‘Right to Repair’?

The European Union (EU) reached a provisional agreement in February 2024 to adopt a new Directive on the 'Right to Repair'. When adopted, the agreement requires producers of certain "goods" to repair the defects in the "goods" unless the repair is not possible. The word "goods" is used broadly in the proposal and includes all items that incorporate or are connected to digital content or a digital service.

In past decades, many products were disposed of prematurely because the repair lacked incentives and choices to repair, even though 77% of Europeans would like to personally contribute to protecting the environment.

The 'Right to Repair' makes repair easy and affordable for consumers by introducing a series of mandatory requirements for producers, who are now obliged to:

  • Offer to repair products within two years of purchase, except when repair is more expensive than replacement
  • Repair common household products like smartphones, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines even beyond the legally guaranteed two-year period
  • Inform consumers about a manufacturer’s obligation to repair
  • Give an additional year's guarantee for repaired goods
  • Publish repair costs and conditions online, and consumers can also request the repair fee and duration, which the repairer must give using the European Repair Information Form
  • Offer consumers the option to borrow a device during the repair
  • Remove and avoid software or hardware that obstructs repair or prevents independent repairers from using second-hand spare parts

To encourage repair, the EU is supporting the proposed law with the following measures:

  • An online platform with national sections where consumers can locate shops or community initiatives for repair, refurbished goods, and defective items
  • Developing a European repair services quality standard to guide consumers in choosing repairers ready to commit to minimum quality standards

The Ripple Effects of 'Right to Repair'

Besides benefits to consumers, the business sector will also benefit from the initiative. 'Right to Repair' is expected to promote innovation and create more jobs.

  • It requires manufacturers to increase their capacity to sell spare parts at reasonable prices
  • It will lead to growth in the repair sector, which may reduce the unemployment rates of people with repair skills and administrative abilities
  • The EU requires each member state to introduce one measure to promote repair, such as vouchers, funds, repair courses, reduction in VAT for repair services, etc. These can act as incentives for repair shops

Why does the 'Right to Repair' matter?

The 'Right to Repair' matters as it addresses business trends and practices promoting the disposal of repairable goods. It promotes circularity in manufacturing because it codifies one of the crucial Rs of circularity into law.

A circular economy's seven Rs are rethinking, reducing, reusing, repairing, recycling, refurbishing, and recovering. The new 'Right to Repair' will also minimise waste generation and promote reuse and refurbishment by enforcing the consumers' right to repair their products.

Historically, when products became defective, consumers discarded them even if they were repairable due to the difficulty in accessing repair services, lack of transparency, and inconvenience. This practice continues. Refurbishing products and reusing materials have limited scope at present. However, over two-thirds of Europeans favoured EU-level action to address this problem.

The premature disposal of repairable products has continually increased waste and the demand for natural resources to produce new products. This product and resource consumption mode has escalated soil, water, and air pollution through landfill waste and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

When consumers repair their products instead of discarding them, fewer resources are extracted for new production, and there is less waste. So, the 'Right to Repair' will ensure sustainable resource consumption and less environmental impact. According to the European Commission (EC), within 15 years, the 'Right to Repair' is expected to save 1.8 million tons of natural resources, prevent 3 million tons of waste, and prevent 18.5 million tons of GHG emissions.

The EU supports consumers’ right to repair by tackling supply and demand issues while ending premature disposal.

According to the European Commission, the 'Right to Repair' will produce measurable economic benefits for businesses and consumers in the next 15 years:

  • Sellers and manufacturers should save EUR 15.6 billion by repairing products instead of replacing them
  • Consumers' savings will amount to EUR 176.5 billion
  • Growth and investment will receive a boost of EUR 4.8 billion

Therefore, any fears that the 'Right to Repair' will limit businesses are unwarranted.

"The circular economy aims to eliminate waste, retain value, and allow sustainable economic activity without depleting resources.” — Sample Quote

Resourcify optimises the management of your waste sustainably, with fewer costs and more clarity of waste and recycling management needs. Book a demo to learn more.

The 'Right to Repair' Law and Circularity

Currently, the repairability requirements under 'Right to Repair' apply only to white goods like electrical appliances like vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and television sets in the EU. It is the first time that manufacturers of these products must offer repair options to consumers beyond the legal guarantee period of two years. However, the EU is open to gradually extending the 'Right to Repair' to cover more goods.

According to the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), the EU is tackling a sector with high natural resource consumption and poor waste management by focusing on white goods  The 'Right to Repair' also covers electronics like smartphones, tablets, displays, servers, and data storage devices.

The 'Right to Repair' should increase circularity in the Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) sector.

Between 2009 and 2019, the weight of EEE products in the EU markets increased by 49%. Since the EU imports 75 to 100% of the metals used in production, reducing their consumption and encouraging circularity is a sound move. It will reduce dependence on unreliable global supply chains for the expected 6.5% increase in e-sales over the next five years.

The IEEP says growth in e-consumption is also producing the fastest-growing waste stream (2%) in the EU. By 2030, the EU will have 74 million tons of e-waste. On the other hand, e-waste collection remains below 50% of EEE placed on the market, and recycling rates are only 40%. The materials used in e-devices are precious metals, but several are classified as hazardous, and waste management is challenging.

For circularity in EEE sectors, e-waste collection, recycling, and separation of viable spare parts are necessary. Many products covered by the 'Right to Repair' are used in businesses and offices, like displays, phones, data devices, etc. So, companies now have an assured market for their end-of-life e-devices.

Waste management software like Resourcify, which is already helping businesses optimise their waste streams’ collections, tracking, and management options, will be valuable in reducing waste and increasing sustainability goals. For example, Resourcify enabled the University Hospital Bonn, which has diverse waste streams, to track and safely dispose of medical hazardous waste from over 1,000 waste containers and many departments.

Less Waste, More Circularity

The 'Right to Repair', which applies primarily to EEE devices, will make repair options accessible and affordable to consumers across the EU member states. The proposal will boost circularity in these product categories as producers must offer repair services, affordable original spare parts, and allow even third-party repair and use of second-hand parts.

As a result, a boom in the repair sector is expected, but even EEE device manufacturers will benefit from savings accrued by avoiding product replacement. The increase in circularity benefits the environment, too, as fewer natural resources will be extracted, and pollution and carbon emissions will decrease.

Use our savings calculator and find out how much you could save on your waste management costs.

Madeline Sinclair
Madeline Sinclair

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