World Consumer Rights Day – It’s Right To Repair

Today’s guest blog comes from Councillor Steve Pearce, Cabinet Member for Waste, Commercialisation and Regulatory Services.

In 2019-20, we collected over 750 tonnes of electrical waste in Bristol. This includes everything from fluorescent light tubes and kettles, all the way up to fridges, washing machines and TVs.  To put that in perspective, that’s equivalent in weight to more than 100 adult elephants.

A large driver of this waste is a relative lack of recourse that consumers have to get manufacturers to repair items outside of their warranty period. With a complex electrical item such as a washing machine, often the costs of securing replacement parts or getting someone who has the expertise to repair the item are higher than it would be to buy a new one. And if manufacturers refuse to produce spare parts for products that they sell, customers are faced with little choice but to dispose of electrical items.

Today is World Consumer Rights Day, which calls for more awareness of consumer protections and rights from businesses and governments. To that end, I welcome the government’s recent announcement that customers will have a right to repair on goods that they buy from this summer. In addition to helping people save money by keeping their appliances for longer, the proposal will have a significant impact on the amount of electrical waste we generate – both here in Bristol and across the country.

Extending the shelf life of electronic products needs to go hand in hand with restoring and reusing as many items that we can which would otherwise be thrown away. For many years we’ve championed a proactive approach to reducing the amount of electronic waste that ends up in landfill. In June last year we opened the first Reuse shop at Avonmouth Reuse and Recycling Centre, and we’re planning to open a second shop at the new Reuse and Recycling Centre on Hartcliffe Way in South Bristol.

The store stocks goods such as TVs and vacuums along with other household items such as books and children’s toys. While the store has been closed during lockdown, the team have continued to restore items and sell them on the Bristol Waste ebay page. A third of the money made from sales goes to charity.

This movement towards a circular economy, in which we reduce waste and move towards the continual reuse of resources, is also vital if we want to realise our environmental ambitions. Management of waste in Bristol contributes around 5% of all of our most direct carbon emissions. In our One City Climate Strategy, we have set ourselves the target of ensuring that at least 65% of all ‘waste’ is repaired, recycled or re-used. To put it another way, we have to stop thinking of things we throw away as “waste” but as a potential future “resource” if we process it correctly and carefully.

By supporting people in Bristol to buy goods that will last for longer and can be repaired affordably, we can therefore not only help save households money, we can take significant steps towards making Bristol carbon-neutral by 2030.