L-R – Jay Abbott from iRepair Buffalo – an independent Apple device repair shop in Williamsville, Assemblymember Monica Wallace, John Szalasny from the Sierra Club Niagara Group. That is why Assemblymember Monica Wallace held a press conference on Friday to ask Governor Hochul to sign the Digital Fair Repair Act (A7006B/S4104A). We have all faced the dilemma of what to do with an electronic device that works intermittently, had a non-functioning key on the keyboard or had a working but cracked display screen.
One peculiarity of New York State’s legislative process is that most laws are passed by the legislature in a condensed period of time near the end of the session. Supporters of laws enacted in the hasty last week of the fall season react with a subdued cheer since they are aware that it may take months for the bill to be signed into law. The rules are a little bit different if a bill is sent to the Governor when the Legislature is not in session, according to the How A Bill Becomes Law page on the NY Senate website. In certain situations, the Governor has 30 days to decide, and inaction (a “pocket veto”) has the same consequences as a veto.
In this day of planned obsolescence, some consumers don’t give it a second thought – you just replace the item with the next best thing. But for those who would rather keep and repair their well-loved electronic devices, the repair (if you can find an exclusive authorized repair center) is currently often more costly than buying new, forcing the consumer to buy a replacement. The Digital Fair Repair Act would give third party repairers access to the diagnostic and repair information for these devices. The competition would drive down the cost of repair and even allow home tool wizards the chance to fix the item themselves.
With the increasing scarcity of many metals found in electronics, any measure that keeps usable items in service (and out of the trash) is a benefit to the economy and the environment. The Digital Fair Repair Act was passed nearly unanimously in both chambers. As Assemblymember Wallace said in her closing remarks, “this is the rare bill that benefits the consumer, small businesses, and the environment.” With the strong bi-partisan support for this legislation, Governor Hochul should ask for the bill and sign it into law.
Despite laws that prohibit the disposal or incineration of electronic waste in New York, cell phones and other electronic waste end up in our landfills at an alarming rate. Electronic waste accounts for 70% of the toxic components in our garbage, such as heavy metals and plastics. And it is estimated that Americans throw out 416,000 cell phones every day. In addition to plastic, one cell phone contains valuable commodities like gold, lithium, aluminum, cobalt, copper, lead, nickel, silver, and zinc. Cutting down on the hundreds of thousands of new replacement cell phones every day eliminates greenhouse gas emissions in the mining and processing of the raw materials, as well as during the production processes.
John Szalasny is someone who cares about our planet. Born too late to join in on the first wave of organized environmental action in the 60’s, I’m making up for lost time as I get nearer to retirement on various environmental concerns including the plastic waste crisis.