As we enter 2023, it’s useful to take a closer look at the trends that shaped the electronic device repair industry last year, and what they mean for the future.
In this blog post, we'll explore the latest developments in the Right to Repair movement, and what they mean for the environment, consumers, service providers, and companies like Fixably that are working to streamline the use of time and resources in the industry.
Whether you’re a busy repair shop owner, enterprise-level service provider, or just a tech savvy individual interested in extending the life of your devices, this post is for you. Let’s dive into the past and future of electronic device repairs!
Smartphone usage is growing, and so is their carbon footprint (unless we prolong device lifespans)
According to reports by Statista, there are over 6 billion active smartphone subscriptions today, and the number of smartphone users will reach 6.2 billion in 2028. This growth naturally comes at a cost for the environment.
What’s interesting, however, is that most smartphone-related emissions happen before they even reach consumers’ hands.
Manufacturing accounts for a whopping 85-95% of the total greenhouse gas emissions that a smartphone will generate throughout its lifetime (around 146 million tons of CO2 or equivalent emissions). This should come as no surprise, since mining, transportation and manufacturing are highly carbon intensive processes required to build new phones.
For perspective, according to Apple’s recent Product Environmental Report for the iPhone 14, 79% of the carbon emissions during the lifecycle of an iPhone are generated during production. This is a small but meaningful decrease compared to the iPhone 13 (81% production-related emissions).
Because of how many resources are used to make new devices, and the difficulties associated with safely managing e-waste, extending the expected lifetime of a smartphone continues to be the single most impactful way to reduce its carbon footprint.
Cue in: the Right to Repair movement
Ever heard of the old “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”? In the case of electronics, at least two of these steps are not feasible without adding another “R”. You guessed it: “Repair”.
In line with this idea, the Right to Repair movement has gained significant momentum in the United States, Europe and beyond. Right to Repair advocates concern themselves with several issues, including the responsibility of manufacturers in designing devices that are easier to repair, consumers’ right to choose how they want to repair their own devices, and passing laws to increase repair accessibility.
Repairing or refurbishing electronic devices ensures that raw materials and products are kept in circulation for as long as possible. That’s why repairs play a vital role in the shift towards a circular economy model.
2022 Right to Repair and Sustainability Highlights
Last year, Right to Repair advocates saw many of the changes they had fought for in previous years begin to take shape. And although a lot of work remains to be done, 2022 was an eventful year for the Right to Repair movement.
Want to know why? Here are our top repair industry highlights of 2022:
- On the 17th-18th November 2022, the EU member states and the European Commission agreed on new eco-design standards for consumer electronics in Europe. A key outcome was the obligation for manufacturers to label their products with a repairability index, which will help consumers assess factors such as the availability of spare parts, the ease of repairing a product, and the accessibility of repair information. The regulation is expected to enter into force during the first half of 2023.
- The EU also approved a new directive that will make it easier to replace batteries in December 2022. Although we’ll still have to wait a few years more for enforcement, this was seen as a significant step forward for the Right to Repair movement. Among other things, the new rules will forbid shortening battery performance using software.
- In the US, landmark Right to Repair legislation was passed in New York requiring manufacturers to sell parts and specialist tools both to users and technicians at “fair and reasonable terms”.
- Manufacturers started taking steps towards greater sustainability and repair accessibility in 2022. For instance, Apple expanded its self-service repair programme to eight European countries and the UK, and the new iPhone 14 is easier (and cheaper) to open up if the battery or backside need to be replaced.
- In 2022, the recommerce and refurbishment market continued to grow. Although this trend is not directly related to Right to Repair legislation, it signals greater sustainability awareness among consumers, which does tie into the Right to Repair agenda. The used phone market grew by 11.5% in 2022, according to ICD’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker. Meanwhile, new phone sales decreased. Plus, Trade-in and Buy Back programs have become commonplace services for major retailers; and major recommerce platforms like Back Market, Rebeelo, and Gazelle managed to secure substantial investment rounds last year.
We are incredibly proud of belonging to an industry where there are tangible opportunities to make a change. Because of this, we hope that manufacturers, policy makers and customers will join forces in 2023, agreeing on concrete plans to responsibly manage e-waste and include repairs in the battle against environmental degradation.
If you are curious, you can also read more about Fixably’s sustainability initiatives here.