The EU Green Deal Could Be A Big Deal For Repair
Right to Repair

The EU Green Deal Could Be A Big Deal For Repair

Last week, the European Right to Repair campaign, in which iFixit is active, won the Good Lobby Award for collaboration of the year. But something far more exciting happened just a few days before, when the EU published a plan proving that repair isn’t just about making stuff work—it’s crucial to the future of our planet.

The Green Deal, published by the European Commission, is a comprehensive plan to move Europe toward a sustainable, circular economy. It’s Europe’s “man on the moon” moment, as President Ursula von der Leyen put it. It’s also a chance for the Right to Repair movement to prove its value as a global climate saver.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen debating the Green Deal
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen debating the Green Deal with members of the European Parliament. © European Union 2019 / EP

The Green Deal is a declaration of intent, filled with measures to transform Europe into a green growth economy. Its overarching goal: Zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Climate and environmental challenges, it states, are “this generation’s defining task.” The Green Deal’s key principles are environmental and climate protection, consumer protection, and workers’ rights—each of them linked indelibly to the necessity of repair. 

If you needed more proof, the Green Deal states that it wants to “encourage businesses to offer, and to allow consumers to choose reusable, durable, and repairable products”—and we couldn’t have written it better ourselves (other than replacing “encourage” with “demand,” maybe).

iFixit with other campaigners demanding the Right to Repair during the September 2019 Climate March in Berlin.

Imagine that, when purchasing a new phone, you could make your decision based on a label showing the device’s longevity and repairability. That’s the kind of forward thinking the Green Deal promises to European citizens: “Consumer policy will help to empower consumers to make informed choices and play an active role in the ecological transition.” What’s more, environmentally harmful products—such as electronics with built-in obsolescence—will be prevented from being placed on the EU market in the first place.

Repair in the circular economy

Each of the Green Deal’s measures is meant to encourage a circular economy. That’s why waste prevention plays a key role in it. Recycling is often seen as a solution to our global e-waste disaster, but it definitively is not. The Green Deal instead prioritizes “reducing and reusing materials before recycling them”—for this, repair is key. A recent study shows that increasing the lifetime of smartphones by just one year would save Europe over two million tons of CO2 emissions per year—the equivalent of taking over a million cars off the roads.

Our advocacy expert Maarten Depypere is happy that the importance of repair is acknowledged in the report. “But it’s lacking concrete measures,” he said, “to make the change that we urgently need in order to protect the environment and consumers’ rights. We need concrete measures quickly.”

For instance, Depypere said, there will soon be an official EU standard for repairability. “We want to see that applied to concrete products as soon as possible. We want a plan for ecodesign of smartphones by March—and we’ll make sure the Commission doesn’t forget that.”