Consumer groups fight for right to repair items to end electronic waste problem

Consumer groups are waging a war over the planned obsolescence of products that are too hard to fix.

Saturday is International Repair Day calling for items to be more durable so customers aren't forced to buy new ones.

Rankin McManus Electrical has been repairing appliances for almost 80 years. But these days, many household staples like shavers, irons, electric blankets and kettles can't be fixed.

That's because manufacturers have made it harder for consumers to get their faulty items sorted.

It's often cheaper and easier just to throw things out and replace them with a brand new purchase.

"A lot of the brands that come out of China or around the world are not supported locally in New Zealand and the parts are not generic," owner Mike Barron says.

Consumer New Zealand is pushing for the "right to repair".

"The right to repair movement says well once you've bought something and you own it, you should be able to extend its life if that's what you want to do," Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy says.

A loophole in the Consumer Guarantees Act means companies can get away with not providing spare parts or a repair service.

"In other jurisdictions overseas countries are requiring manufacturers to make spare parts available. We don't have that requirement here in New Zealand," Duffy says.

And that's being linked to a growing electronic waste problem.

An estimated 100,000 cubic tonnes of it is being thrown out here every year.

"It's our fastest-growing waste stream and we as Kiwis probably produce about 20kgs each per year and that's expected to rise," says WasteMINZ sector projects manager Sarah Pritchett.

Consumers can help turn it around by buying better quality products in the first place.

"Then I'd say 95 percent chance it can be repaired and can live on its life operating as effectively as it did when you bought it," Barron says.

Breaking the cycle of cheap appliances that end up in the dump.