Right to Repair

Recyclers Assert Their Right to Repair and Reuse

We’re not the only ones who get riled up about repair. Recyclers are also banding together for their right to reuse and repair equipment. Late last month, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) adopted a policy in support of their members’ efforts to reuse, repair, and reintroduce products back to the marketplace.

ISRI is “the voice of the recycling industry”; it represents more than 1,600 recyclers that process everything from glass to metal scrap to e-waste. More and more of their members are turning to reuse and repair as a more environmentally-friendly and economically-feasible way to manage waste. But, as we’ve detailed many times, manufacturers (especially of electronics) often erect practical and legal barriers to repair and reuse—like, for example, refusing to share safe disassembly techniques for their products.

“ISRI members across the commodity spectrum rely on reusing goods and products, including electronics equipment, automotive parts and tires, as part of their business models,” writes ISRI. “Reuse provides an excellent environmental and economic benefit. Despite these benefits, product manufacturers limit the ability of recyclers to legitimately reuse products; for example, by limiting parts and parts information, manuals and utilizing digital locks that impede a product’s reuse.”

The organization goes on to say, “These practices inhibit every recyclers’ right to return products and goods back into the marketplace for legitimate reuse. Consumers should have access to cost-effective alternatives to new products and replacement parts. As global resources become more constrained, the right to reuse should be fully supported.”

Parts used to repair electronics

ISRI’s new “Right to Reuse” policy recognizes …

  • Used products destined for reuse are not waste.
  • Provided that the recycler is not prohibited by individual contracts, recyclers have the right to reuse and remarket products they lawfully own or are remarketing as agents of owners (consignment inventory).
  • Recyclers should be able to bypass technological protection measures (digital locks) that prevent reuse.
  • Recyclers should have convenient and affordable access to, but not limited to, repair manuals, parts and parts information, schematics, diagnostic software, the tools that are necessary for safe and responsible repair and the information to safely handle and reuse certain products, such as airbags.

The emphasis on that last bullet point is ours—because it’s an incredibly important point. Recyclers work with hazardous materials—like glued-down, potentially-explosive-when-punctured batteries. It’s patently ridiculous that manufacturers won’t share  information and tools with recyclers. They, more than anyone, should have free access to the information they need to safely remove dangerous components when processing devices for recycling, reuse, and repair. So we applaud ISRI’s new policy.

As a founding member of The Repair Association (launched yesterday), iFixit is also working to get recyclers, repairers, and reuse professionals the resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.