By Noel O’Reilly, Sheffield Green Party
In the past if a household gadget was broken people would make do and mend and only throw it away as a last resort. Times have changed, and now our throw-away culture is creating an unnecessary financial burden on consumers and wasting the finite resources of the planet. The Green Party wants local and national government to take action.
UK consumers top the league in Europe as buyers of single-use, irreparable goods, according to scientist Professor Mark Miodownik, who presented the programme ‘Dare to Repair’ on BBC Radio 4 in May this year.
The solution is to change our habits and repair and reuse far more often than we do now. On a community level, Sheffield has embraced the idea.
Repair Sheffield, a “repair café”, was launched in 2014. It is part of a movement of repair cafés popping up around the world, with over a hundred in the UK. The Repair Sheffield fixers mend anything from computers to bicycles, radios or even lawnmowers.
Movements like repair cafés are slowly changing attitudes, but are unlikely to solve the problem without action from our leaders. This is why campaigners are calling on the Government to invest in industry and training for ‘resuse, reskill, recyle’ services.
A report published in August calculates up to 50,000 new jobs could be created in Yorkshire and the Humber by 2035 in repair and recyle services. The study, by think tank Green Alliance, argues new roles could be created for repairers who fix electronics and machinery, remanufacturers, recycling operatives and biorefinery experts.
Green Alliance calls on the Government to set a target for the UK to halve its resource use by 2050, set up a £400m starter fund to stimulate the circular economy and retrain workers in declining industries.
Tougher government action is essential to limit the environmental cost of squandering finite resources. The key is to force manufacturers to stop building obsolescence into products in the first place. In July a step was taken towards tackling this when a new UK law, the Right to Repair Act, came into force enabling us to get appliances fixed rather than replace them.
The new law requires manufacturers to make spare parts and maintenance information available for products with the aim of extending their life. Currently, the law only covers lighting, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges, but campaign group Restart Project wants this extended to tech products such as mobile phones and computers.
The Green Party wants products and materials to be kept in use for as long as possible. The party calls on the Government to make recycling and repairing easier for all, reducing the need to buy new expensive products on a regular basis.
The Government must go further than toughening ‘right to repair’ legislation. It must follow through on its own rhetoric and divert investment away from projects with a high carbon footprint and towards sustainable industry.
We can all play our part as citizens and consumers, by ending our addiction to shiny new things. If we don’t act soon our legacy to future generations will be a planet that is itself beyond repair.