Shorter Product Life Means More Recycling?

What is a Circular Economy

A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional economy in which we Make Products, Use Products and Dispose Off  Products. The circular economy encourages us to keep scarce resources in use for as long as possible and extract the maximum value from them. This might include buying a radio, using it for 20 years regardless of fashion trends, size trends, peer pressures or appearance upgrades. Its still a radio once it provides the opportunity to listen to news, music or sport.

Recycle IT - Circular Economy
Recycle IT – The Circular Economy

The European Commission has adopted an ambitious new Circular Economy Plan to help European businesses and consumers to make the transition to a stronger and more circular economy where our resources are used in a more sustainable way.

The proposed actions will contribute to “closing the loop” of product life-cycles through greater efforts to reduce, reused, re-purpose and recycle in order to bring benefits for both the environment and the economy.

Benefits for The Environment, Consumer, Public Authorities and Businesses include

  • An increase in reuse and repair of products which will extend their longevity, provide consumers with financial gains and reduce waste.
  • Improved durability and repair-ability of products which benefits to consumers pockets  .
  • Positive environmental impacts and improved enforcement of guarantees

Can these benefits really happen?

Yes it can: But we do have to ask questions about electrical and electronic products with apparently shorter life cycles. Whether it’s electronic toys, computers, TV’s, hairdryers, tablet PC’s or mobile phones, most are used for shorter periods of times before they are replaced. This was the conclusion of a recent study carried out by the German Federal Environment Agency  (UBA, February 2016)

2016 Apple_III - Recycle IT
2016 Apple_III – Recycle IT

The downside to having new and shiny electronic equipment is the vast consumption of valuable resources required to create them. The  end to end production process or supply chain creates pollution in the form of greenhouse gases, e.g. extraction, manufacturing and transportation. The report calls for minimum requirements to be established for product life and quality, “a sort of minimum shelf life for electrical and electronic devices”.

Its not just shiny electronic, the number of large household appliances like cookers, washing machines, fridges and dishwashers that had to be replaced due to a fault within the first five years after purchase also increased, from 3.5% in 2004 to 8.3% in 2013, according to the study carried out by the Öko Institute in Freiburg, Germany . This study was carried out in conjunction by with the University of Bonn.

The president of the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA), Maria Krautzberger suggested that the capacity to repair the device should be facilitated by repair-friendly design and the making available of spare parts to non-manufacturers and other third parties. A second suggestion stated, that products have a recommended life span as product price is not a good indicator of reliability yet consumer who pay more expect a longer life span.

2016 Recycle IT - Vintage Reuse
2016 Recycle IT – Vintage Reuse

The drive to recycle our products and reduce factors such as climate change is one of the main aims of the European Commission’s circular economy package, which is intended to increase recycling levels and tighten rules on incineration and landfill.

The whole industry requires better regulation and greater flexibility which will allow for ease of reuse and recycling. This can lead to increased employment opportunities is repair and maintenance of electrical and electronic equipment leading to reduced levels of recycling.

If you would like more information or need to arrange a personal, residential or business recycling collection for old, damaged or waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) please call 01-4578321 or email visit http://www.recycleit.ie

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