A diverse coalition of Right to Repair made their voices heard in Carson City on March 29, united by the belief that we’d all be better off with the right to fix our electronics. The State Assembly is considering a bill, AB221, that would ensure that consumers and independent repair shops can access the parts, tools, and resources necessary to fix devices instead of buying new ones.
The groundswell of support for the right to repair isn’t just here in Nevada: AB221 is just one of 41 Right to Repair bills in 26 states across the country. The groups that testified or called in to support the bill included Environment Nevada, iFixit, National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Mi Familia Vota, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Great Basin Resource Watch, Ecomadres, and several small repair businesses in Nevada.
Curtis Jones, the owner of Technology Center, a computer and printer repair shop in Sparks, testified that his store could become another mom-and-pop forced to close because of barriers to repair “running us into the ground.”
“We have watched so many [repair] stores disappear in this city because of the mega corporations and the manufacturer’s restrictions and unfair business practices,” Jones said.
Jones, who is tired of turning customers away and seeing hulky electronics that could have extended lives instead get thrown away,. offered the committee a memorable visualization of the wasteful implications of barriers to repair. He testified that a customer had to bring an $800 printer to the dump because the manufacturers’ tech department had no replacement part -- and showed the committee that part, which was only half the size of a credit card.
In part because the inability to repair things leads to more toxic electronic waste in landfills, many environmental groups are among the bill’s most ardent supporters. Nevada’s mines produce many of the resources used in consumer electronics, including lithium. John Hadder of Great Basin Resource Watch testified on the unequal burden of environmental destruction that local mining communities endure. Patrick Donnelly from the Center for Biological Diversity echoed Hadder’s concerns, warning of a “mineral gold rush” in the transition toward renewable energy and the need to mitigate environmental impacts of mining whenever possible by maximizing the mined materials’ useful life.
Other groups linked the bill to climate change. Cecia Alvarado of Mi Familia Vota, an advocacy group that mobilizes and unites Latino and immigrant communities, highlighted the bill’s ability to mitigate global warming, stating that 85 percent of a smartphone’s climate impact occurs at production. Cinthia Moore of Ecomadres testified on the bill’s ability to stem air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the making of electronics. Other environmental groups heralded the bill’s potential to promote a circular economy and minimize the toxic e-waste stream.
Trade associations, such as the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), TechNET, and CoTIA, representing electronics manufacturers, including Apple, Microsoft, Sony and more, presented opposing viewpoints. They argued that the brands want to maintain a high-quality customer experience by limiting repair choices. “One of the reasons that consumer electronics manufacturers are so sensitive is that their business model is based on their brand reputation,” said CTA Lobbyist Walter Alcorn.
Bill sponsor Assemblywoman Selena Torres sees the downside to allowing brands to decide to restrict repair, though.
“Early in the pandemic, a nationwide laptop shortage left millions of students unprepared for virtual learning. As an educator, I saw firsthand how families struggled to share one device with several school-aged children,” Torres said. “The right to repair will give schools and other institutions the information they need to maintain equipment and empower the refurbished computer market, saving taxpayer dollars and improving digital access.”
From protecting the environment to allowing kids to access learning computers, Right to Repair makes sense. We will continue to push Nevada lawmakers to pass this critical legislation.