New study details how much families can save when they repair electronics

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Sabrina Clevenger

Illinois PIRG details how fixing electronics instead for replacing them both pays and helps environment

Illinois PIRG

With home electronics in heavy use during the ongoing pandemic, Illinois PIRG released a report Wednesday detailing just how much families can save by repairing electronic products instead of replacing them. Entitled “Repair Saves Families Big,” this new analysis, which was produced in conjunction with our Right to Repair campaign, also looks at spending habits and the importance of a strong repair economy.

“Repair provides us with an opportunity to breathe new life into our old and broken devices,” said Sabrina Clevenger, associate with Illinois PIRG. “Instead of buying new gadgets every time our old ones give us trouble, we should turn to our communities to meet our repair needs. This approach is what’s best for both our society and our pocketbooks.”

Specifically, Illinois households could save $330 per year by repairing our electronics on our own or going to independent repair shops, according to the report’s analysis. This adds up to a total savings of $1.6 billion across the state. This number may seem staggering, but so is how much we spend on new devices. As of 2019, American households spend approximately $1,480 annually purchasing new electronic products.

“Right to Repair is good for your wallet and good for the planet,” said Illinois State Representative Michelle Mussman, 56th district. “People should not be pushed into replacing items that can easily be repaired with new ones, or pay more because they do not have the ability to fix it themselves, price shop, or support a local small business. Having the ability to tinker and modify your own possessions is also an important part of inspiring the next generation of ‘Makers!’”

“Many of my customers are shocked to find out that most repairs can be done in under 30 minutes and cost a fraction of the price of a new device,” said Terry Ballantini of Normal Gadgets LLC in Bloomington. “If the general public knew how easy it was to repair their devices, my customer base would explode.”

Repair is not only good for our pocketbooks, but is also better for our planet. When we replace our electronics, we retire our old devices to landfills where they can leak such toxic heavy chemicals as lead, mercury and cadmium. With American families generating about 176 pounds of electronic waste each year, Americans are big contributors to the fastest growing waste stream in the world.

Beyond aiding the environment and saving families’ money, seeking out neighborhood repair shops also supports the local economy. Instead of looking to overseas manufacturers to carry out repairs, an increased reliance on local repair businesses can provide jobs for community members, decrease the out-of-pocket cost of repair, and increase the speed of service.

“Relying on the manufacturer for repairs means waiting days or weeks after shipping your device to some remote factory location,” continued Ballantini. “In rural areas, it could mean driving two or three hours for an appointment with the manufacturer that needs to be set weeks in advance, even for the most common repairs. At a local repair business, you can speak directly with the technician repairing your device and get direct insight in a matter of minutes.”

Repair is critical to keeping our electronic products functional without breaking our budgets. Unfortunately, manufacturers often elbow out independent repair by limiting access to the tools, parts and manuals we need to repair our devices, the report explains. In doing this, they limit the capacity for creating resilient communities that quickly recover from global disruptions.

“We’ve spoken to many repair shop owners who have been forced to turn away customers because they did not have the correct tools or parts,” added Clevenger. “These devices could have been easily repaired if manufacturers committed to what’s best for customers, local businesses and our communities.”