Crew Commentary

Oregon Reduces eWaste with Right-to-Repair Bill

Bob Leonard - Climate Risk Manager


Oregon Governor Tina Kotek signed into law the newest and toughest right-to-repair act in the U.S. This is the fourth such state law in the country, and it goes even further than California’s, in particular by resisting Apple’s lobbying to ban the use of “parts pairing” to hinder independent repair services.


Parts pairing is when an electronics manufacturer digitally pairs a component’s serial number to that of the device it goes into. So, in the case of an iPhone, an Apple-made battery taken from a broken handset can’t simply be swapped into another iPhone that needs it, without triggering scary warning messages about potentially unofficial parts. A swapped-in selfie camera won’t work properly, despite being an official Apple part. Same goes for a screen, which may not be able to have its brightness adjusted, for no good reason.


As the New York Times reported last year, this tactic has made Apple billions of dollars, by steering customers towards the pricey AppleCare insurance policy, under which the company will repair screens and replace batteries. So it’s no surprise that Apple tried to convince Oregon lawmakers not to ban the practice, telling them that the move would “undermine the security, safety, and privacy of Oregonians by forcing device manufacturers to allow the use of parts of unknown origin.”





That didn’t work. Oregon’s Right to Repair Act passed each stage of the legislative process comfortably. For any devices sold after the start of 2025, manufacturers won’t be allowed to use parts pairing to reduce a device’s functionality or performance, or to “display misleading alerts or warnings… about unidentified parts,” or to stop any device owner or independent repair business from installing a perfectly functioning part. (Other parts of the law, such as those requiring manufacturers to allow people to fix their own devices, apply to stuff that was sold after mid-2015, or mid-2021 in the case of smartphones specifically.)


When you can’t fix what you own, manufacturers often charge exorbitant prices for repairs… or they won’t fix it at all, driving you to buy a new product. This isn’t just an unnecessary cost to the consumer; it damages our ecosystem as it leads to more unnecessary eWaste being tossed into landfills or burned in incinerators.


Under the new law, manufacturers are required to provide repair tools and information to independent repair shops and to the people who buy their products. No more depending on Apple to fix your iPhone or Google to provide parts for your Chromebook. Now, the parts, tools and information needed to keep devices working longer will be widely available.


This win is an exciting moment for Oregon – and it should inspire other states. New United Nations data shows that people are creating electronic waste at a rate five times greater than that for eWaste collection and recycling.


“By keeping products running and off the scrap heap, repair cuts waste and saves consumers money,” said Nathan Proctor, right-to-repair campaign chief at the Public Interest Research Group, which aided the campaign for the law in Oregon. “People are tired of not being able to fix things. Lawmakers have gotten the message and, in turn, are sending that message to the manufacturers.” 


Incidentally, while Apple opposed the parts-pairing shift, smartphone rival Google did not. Its devices operations chief Steven Nickel wrote an open letter supporting the bill, saying it “requires that as manufacturers we design products in a manner that enables simple, safe, and correct repairs wherever and by whomever they are done. This is what we call design for serviceability.”


Right-to-repair is the first step toward a circular economy. In a circular economy, products are designed to be repaired, and to be disassembled at end of life, so that the parts can be reintroduced into the product manufacturing process… thus greatly reducing the amount of eWaste produced.