ONE of the fastest growing solid wastes is Electronic Waste, or E-waste. It is also called WEEE, or waste electrical and electronic equipment.

According to the United Nations University, the volume of discarded electronics in East and South-East Asia jumped almost two-thirds between 2010 and 2015, and e-waste generation is growing fast in both total volume and per capita measures.

Blame it on the rapid advances in technology. Electronic devices and appliances quickly become obsolete. The trend is to produce better, smaller, faster, cheaper and more efficient products. Adding to the mounting e-waste problem are electronic and electrical equipment that are cheap but not repairable, hence disposable. Some are sealed, disallowing replacement of parts or batteries. Others do not have spare parts, are sub-standards and do not last very long.

E-waste or WEEE is not just a garbage disposal problem. Many discarded equipment and gadgets contain hazardous components which may cause health problems or pollution if not properly handled. It is also a waste of the Earth’s finite natural resources, because some contain precious and rare metals.

Extending the life of electronics and appliances will mean less E-waste. It’s good that some companies provide new lease to life of equipment by refurbishing them. But this is a business in itself, and the original manufacturers are not obliged to extend the life of their products. Well, that’s about to change in Europe.

There is a now a “Right to Repair” legislation in Europe. Environment ministers have voted on a series of proposals that would force manufacturers to make their goods longer-lasting and easier to fix. The new standards would apply to lighting, televisions, electronic displays, and large home appliances such as washers, refrigerators, and dishwashers.

The environment ministers also voted that spare parts be available for at least seven years, with parts such as door gaskets and trays available to end-users, and thermostats and temperature sensors available only to professional repair technicians. Professional technicians also receive access to repair information.

There’s data to back up the move to repair equipment. One study showed that between 2004 and 2012, the proportion of major household appliances that died within five years rose from 3.5 percent to 8.3 percent. An analysis of junked washing machines at a recycling centre showed that more than 10 percent were less than five years old. Many lamps sold in Europe come with individual light bulbs that can’t be replaced. So when one bulb packs in, the whole lamp has to be replaced.

Naturally, manufacturers are not sold out to the idea. They said that the “proposed rules on repairability are too strict and will stifle innovation. They've expressed concern that incorrect repairs could potentially damage appliances and make them dangerous. That’s just another way of saying that ‘it will mean fewer sales.

The legislation will not just reduce e-waste, it’s also good on the pocket of consumers.