At Stilbruch, the department store in Hamburg, Germany run by the city’s sanitation department, only goods that others have thrown away are offered up for sale. But before they are sold, they are checked and, if necessary, repaired in Hottgenroth’s 7,500-square-foot workshop. The process is something of a dying art. “Unfortunately, [repair] is no longer intended for most appliances,” says Hottgenroth, Stilbruch’s operations manager.

But that may be changing. Across Europe, legislation is pushing back against a waste-based economy and restoring for citizens something companies have gradually taken away: the right to repair what they’ve bought.

Hottgenroth sees every day how many appliances end up in the trash. Although often all they need is a fresh battery or receiver, “Spare parts are hard to come by, and all the components are soldered, glued or riveted,” he says. This is why, while his employees can fix many products, many others are unsalvageable. “Because of their design, devices often break just when you try to open them.” In addition, there is usually no longer any provision for upgrading and adapting devices to new technical standards.

Some political leaders agree. In November, the EU Parliament called on the European Commission to make routine repair of everyday products easier, systematic and cost-efficient. It said that warranties should be extended, and that replacement parts should be improved and made more accessible, as should information enabling general repair and maintenance.

The EU’s existing eco-design regulations could be an instrument to reach these goals. These mandates were established years ago to improve the energy efficiency of products sold in the EU. But in March, the first eco-design regulation that will define standards for repair and useful life will come into force. Manufacturers of washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators and monitors will have to ensure that components are replaceable with common tools. Instruction manuals must be accessible to specialist companies. And producers must supply spare parts within 15 days.

Read the full article about the right to repair by Klaus Sieg at Reasons to Be Cheerful.