It’s not just your imagination, your products are breaking sooner. As a result, people are buying more new electronics, and the cost, and clutter, are ramping up.
Our research shows that as of 2021, American households spend about $1,767 purchasing new electronic products per year. Despite falling prices for many electronics, this is $287 more than the estimate in our last report using 2019 data, a 19% increase in just two years. On average, Americans have 24 pieces of electronics in their homes. As more things become digital, we are spending more – and replacing more.
Electronics shouldn’t be disposable
When something breaks, you fix it. That’s just common sense. But manufacturers of everything from phones to appliances to tractors intentionally make things difficult to repair.
And even as the financial burden of replacing broken laptops, refrigerators, and other electronic products increases, so does the toll on the environment. The average American family generates about 115 pounds of electronic waste each year, and nationally, the United States generates 6.9 million tons of electronic waste.
Disposable is not a word that should describe our electronics, but we are turning over our gadgets far too quickly. And when we dispose of electronics, we’re adding toxic elements such as lead, mercury, and cadmium to our landfills.
It’s time to unleash repair for our wallets and the planet.
If we repaired products instead of replacing them, we’d save big
Repair saves money – more than you might think. When the cost of repair inches toward the cost of replacement, it might seem like buying the new product is cheaper. But fixing the product and extending its lifespan leads to big savings.
Repair could reduce household spending on electronics and appliances by 21.6 percent, which would save an average family approximately $382 per year.
This means that across 129 million national households, repair could save Americans a total of $49.6 billion annually.
See how much could be saved in your state
Local repair makes communities more self-reliant
Not only does repair save families money in a tight economy, the money people do spend on repair provides more benefits to the local economy.
Repair makes our communities more resilient. Instead of relying on the global supply chain to bring a never-ending supply of new stuff, repair helps us keep devices going using only local resources. A robust repair ecosystem with more people in our neighborhoods working repair jobs, results in lower repair costs quicker and service. But if manufacturers further restrict repair, downtime and prices go up. Eventually, people give up and buy new things.
The money people do spend on repair circulates locally, rather than being sent to manufacturing operations across the country or, more likely, overseas.
It’s time to remove manufacturer barriers to repair
Repair is critical to maintaining our lifestyles and saving money. By relying on local repair, households can keep their electronic products humming without breaking the bank. However, when manufacturers restrict access to the tools and manuals necessary for repair, they ultimately chip away at the resilience our communities need to bounce back in the face of global disruptions.
Now is a critical time to make Right to Repair the standard. Electronic manufacturers must heed our call to remove barriers to repair. If not, we must call on our state representatives to take action.
Leaders in state capitals should be vocal about their support for repair-friendly legislation and demand that manufacturers lower restrictions on necessary tools, parts, and manuals. If electronics companies won’t remedy the situation, our leaders must.
Senior Director, Campaign for the Right to Repair, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Nathan leads U.S. PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign, working to pass legislation that will prevent companies from blocking consumers’ ability to fix their own electronics. Nathan lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, with his wife and two children.