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Where does Iceland stand in supporting the Right to Repair movement?

You’ve probably faced this dilemma many times throughout your life. That phone you just splurged on suddenly doesn’t charge properly. The keyboard on your laptop always sticks to a certain letter. The ever-present question arises: do I buy a new dishwasher or get it fixed? It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes it’s cheaper just to throw the busted toaster into a landfill and buy a new one – if the cost of getting it fixed is higher than repairing it.

In most cases, we want to keep using our things – it makes sense and it’s environmentally friendly. Close to 35 million tonnes of waste, comprised of usable materials, is generated annually in the EU.

For us to be able to repair our things, certain parameters need to be in place. Items need to be well-designed, spare parts and manuals need to be readily accessible, and repairing the item needs to be cheaper than just getting a new one.

This is the right-to-repair movement in a nutshell.

On March 22, the European Commission adopted a new proposal on promoting the repair of goods. The proposal still needs to go through bureaucratic hurdles before being passed. In essence, it will allow consumers to claim repair for certain products under EU law; establish a European quality standard for repair services; and repair transparency is to be increased with the establishment of online repair platforms, to name a few examples. It is uncertain when or if these measures will be implemented in Iceland, due to the EU’s scope.

Despite these positive steps, the NGO movement Right to Repair has noted some reservations, stating that this proposal does not step far enough to make repairs accessible and affordable.

But where does Iceland stand in the right-to-repair movement?

The matter of repairs as a critical component of a circular economy is recognized in the 2021 policy document Towards a Circular Economy, published by the Ministry of Environment and Resources. One of the actions outlined to improve waste recycling and re-usability includes reinforcing repair and maintenance services.

That’s great news! What does it mean?

In short, the ministry proposed two tax concession-based suggestions and handed them over to a task force in charge of assessing them.

The task force came to a decision, published in a report on March 10, which concluded that the ministry’s suggestions should not be implemented. The justification included that the actions could introduce arbitrariness as it relates to deciding which appliances would fall under tax concessions. Additionally, the task force concluded that “it would be difficult to monitor individual permits during tax returns.”

Still, it’s only an assessment, and difficult to say what decision will be made.

As it stands, the right-to-repair movement needs supporters. You can join the movement by signing up for a membership with your local tool library and Reddingakaffi (Repair Café) events. Additionally, the initiative Saman Gegn Sóun (Together Against Waste) – a project responsible by Umhverfisstofnun – hosts a seminar on the culture of electronics repairs, May 24 at the reopened Góði Hirðirinn.

Article by: Jóhannes Bjarkason

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