About 30 persons demonstrated on Monday outside the Albert Borschette Conference Centre in Brussels’ European Quarter as representatives of EU member States met for a first series of votes on proposals to oblige companies to manufacture household appliances that are easy to repair and more durable. The demonstrators displayed many repairable products, including a refrigerator, since Monday’s vote had to do specifically with this type of appliance. Two other votes on household appliances will follow in December and January.
The European Commission “developed ambitious proposals that would facilitate repairs, but walked them back under pressure from industry,” the organisers said. The demonstrators called on member States to “reintroduce the original repair clauses”. They also exhibited small household appliances, to press demands for the laws to be extended to include this type of goods.
“The risk is that they might vote for recycling and block repairs,” said Luc Deriez, director of the non-profit Repair Together, the network of repair cafés in Wallonia and Brussels. “We are militating for the ‘right to repair’ so as to limit waste and increase citizens’ buying power.”
“Recycling is a consequence of over-consumption,” he added. “People need to be given the possibility to repair their goods with spare parts available at affordable prices so that they can extend their shelf life.”
Unlike France, Belgium has no law on “planned obsolescence”, a technique some industrialists are suspected of using, and which consists of deliberately limiting the shelf life of appliances to boost consumption.
In February last, after two years of hearings and debates in the Chamber of Representatives, the majority refused to legislate on the proposals. Only a draft resolution to support the circular economy was adopted, with the majority voting in favour and the opposition against. “A law would have enabled citizens to take legal action against manufacturers,” Luc Deriez said ruefully.
Monday’s protest was supported by many associations: BBL, Coolproducts, ECOS, EEB, iFixit, Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken, The Restart Project, Zero Waste Europe and volunteers at Repair Cafés.