How to stop planned obsolescence for eletronic devices
By introducing a ‘durability and repairability’ rating, the French Government tries to reduce ‘planned obsolescence’ in technology products. This brings more transparency for customers and puts manufacturers under pressure for more sustainability.
Many of our everyday electronic devices are thrown away after a short period of time. That is not only an ecological problem but also an environmental one. The reasons are not necessarily in the product itself, but within the design process. Manufacturers design a product to become ‘dated or useless’ within a given period of time.
About 60% of personal electronics and household appliances are thrown away or are recycled when they break down. This is especially caused by the difficulty of repairing these items. A good example is the smartphone. The replacement cycle for smartphones is typically two to three years as their underlying components are designed to wear down, or to stop receiving software updates.
According to a recent European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, also products like televisions, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners are used on average for shorter periods than both their designed and desired lifetimes,
A significant reduction of climate and environmental impacts is possible through extending the lifetime and delaying obsolescence of electronics. Also, this can help to meet the European Union’s (EU) environment, climate and circular economy objectives, according to the EEA.
The French Government plans to create stickers for the product packaging, that indicate how long the estimated “life” will be. This way the durability and repairability of a product will be identified on a scale from 1 to 10, according to Connexion France. This is one possibility in which France could be a role model for other (European) countries.
From January 2021, a repair rating should be compulsory for smartphones, televisions, laptop computers, front-loading washing machines, and lawn mowers in France. The list shall be expanded and the ‘repair’ label will become a ‘durability rating’ in 2024, Barbara Pompili, the environment minister, said.
The plan also intends to create QR codes, allowing consumers to compare labels, to see how much the product impacts the environment – including its manufacturing process.
Alongside this, the French Government is also willing to introduce a network of electronic device repair workshops, that would offer repair packages. The government aims to reduce the 60% replacement rate to 40% within three years as part of its push to develop a “circular” consumer economy over the “linear” model of “take-make-use-discard”.
These plans fit to the Circular Economy (CE) Action Plan of the European Commission (EC) from March 2020 that followed to the Green Deal from 2019.
The CE Action Plan presents initiatives along the entire life cycle of products in order to modernize and transform the economy while protecting the environment. It is driven by the ambition to make sustainable products that last and to enable all citizens to take full part in the circular economy and benefit from the positive change that it brings. This approach leads in the right direction but does not go as far as France by making it a law.
The goal not only of France should be to design products that last longer, are easier to repair, upgrade, remanufacture, recycle, and reuse. Also, incentives for companies who follow that guideline could be possible. Single-use products should be phased out and replaced by durable products for multiple use.
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