March 13, 2020 4:49:25 pm
Written by Elian Peltier
Hoping to replace that 2-year-old smartphone in a few months? The European Union wants you to think twice about doing that.
The bloc announced an ambitious plan on Wednesday that would require manufacturers of electronic products, from smartphones to tumble driers, to offer more repairs, upgrades and ways to reuse existing goods, instead of encouraging consumers to buy new ones.
The “right to repair,” part of a wide-ranging policy package known as the Green Deal that was introduced this month, is the latest example of the European Union’s ambitions to promote more sustainable economic growth and to prevent waste. It extends standards brought in last year that put “right to repair” obligations on the manufacturers of some large appliances.
“The linear growth model of ‘take-make-use-discard’ has reached its limits,” Virginijus Sinkevicius, the union’s environment commissioner, told reporters in Brussels as he presented the “Circular Economy Action Plan,” which includes the “right to repair” initiative.
According to the commissioner, surveys have found that two-thirds of European citizens want their electronic devices to serve them longer. They have also indicated support for clearer indications on a product’s life span, easier repairs or more readily available replacement parts.
Manufacturers like Apple take old iPhones back when consumers buy a new one, but the EU plan wants them to go one step further: If implemented, it would encourage consumers to buy less and to keep a product in use as long as possible, and encourage industries to consider recycling only when a device is no longer usable.
With the “right to repair,” upgrading a phone’s software, replacing the battery of a tablet, or buying a new display for a laptop instead of changing the whole device would become easier, said Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, from the European Environmental Bureau, a network of environmental citizens’ groups.
The plan also includes measures to introduce a common charger for smartphones — an effort that the European Union has long tried to implement, with little success — targets to reduce packaging, and a new framework to recycle batteries and textiles, among other measures.
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