Repair… not Recycle for Sustainability
- Sustainability has today become a key agenda for individuals, governments and industries
- Customers buying a new product consider sustainability a key parameter along with other major factors such as safety, performance and price
- Electronics manufacturers must extend the lifespan of products to decrease their environmental footprint
Our planet’s survival will depend on how well we retain the value of products within the system by extending their life – Joyce Msuya, UN Environment Acting Executive Director
According to a United Nations report, humans generate 50 million tons of electronic waste per year, which will grow to 120 million tons per year by 2050. The value of this e-waste is estimated to be $60 - $65 billion.
Now consider this.
Less than 20% of this e-waste is formally recycled, which results in around $48 billion wasted annually.
What then happens to sustainability goals, which have been on the agenda of all major organizations throughout the world?
It is probably time to change the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle mantra and make it 4Rs by adding ‘Repair’ to the list. Here are 3 reasons why:
Closed-box approach of manufacturers
There are 15 billion mobile phones active globally. As mobile companies look to increase sales, they generally stop providing official support for their devices after 2 years. They have a closed-box system that allows only manufacturers to provide spare parts and maintain monopoly over repairs.
With customers demanding sustainability, it is about time that electronics manufacturers move to an open-box approach following repairs and extend the official support for devices, thereby increasing their lifespan.
Customer preference for repairability
Today, most customers would rather repair their device than buy a new one. Almost 77% of Europeans try to repair goods before replacing, according to a Eurobarometer survey. The 2018 behavioral study by the European Commission shows consumers are three times more likely to buy a product if it is labeled as durable and repairable.
Customers are more vigilant and cash-strapped and are trying to make sustainable choices while buying electronics. An example can be Fairphone’s Lego-type handset whose defective parts can be swapped for an extended lifespan. Apple too had sustainability in mind when it announced recently that it will now allow customers to self-repair their devices.
Growing popularity of refurbished devices
Refurbished devices are devices that customers return immediately after buying or after using them for a very short time. Companies repair these devices, if required, and sell them at highly discounted rates. For example, Apple offered a refurbished iPhone X 256GB, released in September 2017, at a price point of USD 699 in 2021 with a discount of USD 350 over its original price. Earlier, Samsung launched the Note7 Refund and Exchange Program in the US under which customers could exchange their Galaxy Note 7 with another Samsung smartphone or ask for a product refund. Such initiatives allow companies to examine manufacturing defects and offer better customer service.
Many customers have pre-conceived notions about the quality of the refurbished device and generally avoid purchasing such phones. There is also a general lack of awareness about the quality check process that adds to a customer’s dilemma. Customers can set aside these doubts by buying refurbished products from official company websites or from reputed ecommerce websites after verifying sellers. Also, a large percentage of refurbished devices are sold with warranties and can be insured with a proof of purchase. Samsung, for instance, offers one year warranty on its refurbished devices bought from them directly. This helps in overcoming consumer hesitancy to purchase refurbished devices.
Customers are also looking to buy refurbished phones at a cheaper price rather than spending a fortune on a new device. This can lead to a more sustainable future by reducing the usage of resources in manufacturing and recycling.
Repairability is now a key parameter for customers looking to buy an electronic device. Not only will repairability impact consumer buying patterns and enhance a product’s appeal, it can also pave the way for a more sustainable future.