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Repair and reuse: Not a tale of bygone age

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Socially Responsible citizen, a loving mother and a best out of waste enthusiast

There was a time when one would find ample repair shops in the market. You could get the spare parts of almost all kind of appliances. A time when people prefer to reuse products and appliances in the day to day household chores. The cohort of 80’s and 90’s can immediately relate to this. Whether it was a fused plug, shouting mixer or dying ceiling fan, people would look for available resources to set course for repair and not replacement.

In some cases, when the product became entirely useless for human use then instead of throwing it away, general rule was to make it useful in some other way. We even had a tradition of dismantling it piece by piece, with the hope to make it work once again. Society was conscious about the sustainable and mindful use of resources. People were less materialistic and there was a system of vigilance at the community level where emphasis was on the utmost utilization of resources.

Let us take the example of water, the cleanest form was first kept for drinking/cooking and worship purpose and then for other household uses. Water used in household cleaning was re-used for watering the plants and bathing the domestic animals. Clothes were tremendously reused. Resources like water and soil were not only reused and preserved but also respected and worshiped. Wells and ponds were a common sight and farming was done organically, hence waste generation was almost negligible. These rules were practiced by the entire society and belief of preservation was deep rooted in people’s conscience.

Industrial growth has been significant in the general growth of our country. Improved technology and higher production level is a requirement to feed the ever growing population. But due to the changing mindset towards individualism and growing trend of private usage of facilities, manufacturing industry is producing at an accelerating speed using the natural resources like never before.

As they say, excess of anything is bad; industrialization has its own consequences. Large scale production has created additional pressure on already depleting natural resources and environmental challenges are wide spread. We are able to manage just fine now and somehow have been able to keep things in balance but if we do not start with the mindful & sustainable usage of resources, we may not be able to keep up with the basic requirements for survival of coming generations.

So let’s understand how a society more inclined towards repair and reuse can actually work. Since repair adds years to the product life span and helps in value creation, it is a perfect way to become a part of circular economy. Increasing the product life span can be one of the most effective environmental strategies, as it has the potential to slow down the production and consumption cycle and hence reduce waste and emissions from production and transport, and also save energy.

In circular economy incentives are given for reusing products, rather than scrapping them and then extracting new resources. In such an economy, all forms of waste, such as clothes, scrap metal and obsolete electronics, are returned to the economy or used more efficiently. This can provide a way to not only protect the environment, but use natural resources more wisely, develop new sectors, create jobs and develop new capabilities.

Why repairing has become unpopular after being loved and cherished by the society for so long. Among the other reasons, the degraded quality of products has been the most prominent reason behind. Presently, going by the latest marketing strategy, consumers are pitched to buy new products instead of reusing or repairing the old products. To support more production, products are made with a shorter lifespan and quality is kept at a low level so that the product becomes obsolete on its own within a defined period. The other reasons are less availability of spare parts and technical know-how about the product design.

If manual on product design and repairing tips are provided with every product then broken products can be repaired by end customers or by professionals other than the manufacturer authorised. Because of lack of availability of trained professionals repairing cost is high, sometimes even higher than the new product. Also, manufacturers have been able to substantially reduce the price of the products by using latest technology and production on large scale which in turn has made repairing an unwanted chore. Changing customer taste and preferences is also an important factor in making the products useless even before their expiry.

The silver lining in the whole situation are the initiatives taken world over and the rising of a general awareness at the societal level. UNCTAD’s work on circular economy in collaboration with Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation is commendable. Opening on repair cafes in metro cities like Bangalore, social media page for Refugars, repair parties etc are the result of social awakening. Government is also playing its part by the announcing to set up a committee to develop a comprehensive framework on “Right to Repair”. This legislation is intended to allow consumers the ability to repair and modify their own consumer electronic devices, where otherwise the manufacturer of such devices require the consumer to use only their offered services.

For instance, when customers buy a product, it is inherent that they must own it completely, for which the consumers should be able to repair and modify the product with ease and at reasonable cost, without being captive to the whims of manufacturers for repairs. The right to repair has been recognized in many countries across the globe, including the US, UK and European Union. It is high time that we go back to basic and easy ways of life. Lets uncomplicated things and work together for a greener planet.

There is a realization among people; we are becoming conscious of the possible consequences if things do not change. Problems have been understood and possible solutions are also available, the time seems perfect for bringing changes and making them a way of life ahead. Govt. should bring sustainable changes in the current policies/initiatives and general public/industry should wholeheartedly participate.

Reuse & repair are the keys to make way for reduced and sustainable use of resources. Only our responsible behavior and conscious choices can save our resources, our environment and our planet. And we could all live a happy, healthy & peaceful life without carrying any guilt of irresponsibility on our conscience and also keep this planet intact for the future generations.

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Socially Responsible citizen, a loving mother and a best out of waste enthusiast
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