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Big Repair Project research updates

4 April 2024

Hear more from UCL researchers about the Big Repair Project citizen science study ( and their work on fixing the UK electronics repair system. Recorded May 2024.

Unfortunately we ran out of time on the day to answer all of the questions submitted. The team answer these below.

Q1: Have you looked at the time it takes to repair an item, versus replacement? Retailers of replacement items are generally offering next day / few days service, whereas waiting for an uncertain outcome repair may take weeks.

A1: Yes, we have explored this issue with manufacturing partners such as Beko and policy partners in DEFRA. Currently DEFRA are looking at options on EPRs (producer responsibilities) so that online retailers supplying new appliances take back the old appliance as part of the service and repair/resell/recycle the collected old appliance. Additionally improving diagnostics to reduce uncertainty and improving access to local repair services are being considered.

Q2: In your survey, have you considered the idea that many users would never even consider repair to be an option, and their immediate reaction is to replace?

A2: Yes. We acknowledge the limitations of the survey in that participants are likely to already be representative of the population which have the motivation/capability to repair and thus the findings summary report will be focused on the barriers to repair that those who have the motivation to repair are facing. In the separate systems analysis work we have identified direct actions for raising awareness of waste hierarchies, repair and skills; and need for further research into citizens behaviours and product value assignments in different scenarios (amongst other recommendations). We are hoping the systems paper will be published in due course and we will share on the website.

Q3: Have you looked at or come across if perception of not being creative or imaginative is a barrier for people repairing?

A3: No, we have not considered this yet but agree it is very interesting point to explore further.

Q4: There is little universality in the design of parts - take laptops as an example, what is inside a Lenovo does not fit inside a HP. A repair shop is not going to risk stocking expensive spare parts that it may never use - it'll go bust in a week.

A4: The research has explored this issue in the systems analysis work. We are hoping the systems paper will be published in due course and we will share on the website. We have included a discussion on design for circularity and repair (where this issue can be tackled), and the wider considerations of Intellectual Property law and Copyright that feed into enabling change.

Q5: Would building in the lifetime costs of a product (including end of life waste and environmental effects etc.) into the cost of a product via taxes etc. automatically encourage reuse and repair?

A5: This is a complex systems question so there is no simple answer. There needs to be a careful balance of action across the global, national and local levels to enable a fair implementation of a whole new economic pricing system for products (as you are suggesting). There are steps that can be taken on the way to enable this transition. Steps may include EPRs, WEEE regulation changes (already on the way), VAT and Business Rates adjustments etc.

Q6: In addition to the Right to Repair, should we have stickers and/or voluntary accreditation scheme(s) for a wider range of products to indicate that they are repairable and part of the green economy and that parts are available for a reasonable cost etc. to encourage consumers to buy those products?

A6: Refer to the “Considerations for the design of a UK Repairability Index” report accessible via Reports - Big Repair Project

Q7: Is there anything being done about broken appliances being thrown out through local Council waste schemes, to recover, repair and resell those, for example?

A7: Currently, regulated targets only cover recycling and not higher priority activities like reuse and repair. As part of the systems analysis work, we have called for mandatory national targets for higher priority activities to be included within the regulatory framework. The paper has been discussed with DEFRA.

Q8: Did you clarify examine consumer attitudes to maintenance in the study? Some people call unblocking a washer or dryer filter a ‘repair’ but actually it’s maintenance.

A8: The study asks for detailed information on repair activities and the logbook entries also include photographs of the repaired items. Yes, we can differentiate and classify repair activities in the results and consider including a discussion on this in the findings report to be issued later in the year.

Q9: What is stopping the UK enforcing the 'repairability index' attached to consumer products, that I believe France has now?

A9: Refer to the “Considerations for the design of a UK Repairability Index” report accessible via Reports - Big Repair Project

Q10: I wonder whether you had any additional thoughts about the data you gathered on the vast majority of repairs being less than £10 means that people don't go for more expensive repairs, or whether repairs requiring more expensive spare parts are performed by professionals instead? Ugo, Restart Project.

A10: Correct, the presented spend on repair is from the logbook activities e.g. individuals recording repair that they have done themselves at home, not professional repairs. The wider survey has shown individuals are more likely to undertake basic repairs. For more information refer to the detailed 2 year report via Reports - Big Repair Project.