Have you ever heard about “Longer Lasting Products”? Reusing, repairing and remanufacturing products are the key of Circular Economy. This economy aims to radically limit the extraction of raw materials and the production of waste because it recovers and reuses as many of the products and materials as possible over and over again. In a Circular Economy we can reuse, re-manufacture and recycle products (1). In fact, you can repair a product yourself or you can have it repaired. However, refurbishment is an extensive process where products are repaired and components replaced in order to bring it back to a good working condition. Remanufacture is a more extensive process where products are totally disassembled into components for broughting back to at least the original quality. As a result of this, these new products are new original products (2). All of these three activities result in giving products a kind of “second life” (3).
These previous ideas are in other words “rethinking”. A crucial fact is that “the smaller the loop, the greater the profitability of the overall system”(1). If I repaired a product, I would save resources and energy (3). As a result of that, keeping a product at it highest value makes sense, both from an economic and an ecological perspective . The meaning of this is that we need to postpone the moment that a product is recycled as long as possible (4). Making products last longer is extending the life of products thanks to two methods: to keep products in use longer and to give products a second life, third life, fourth life etc. This only can be truth if we design really durable products.
We need to design longer lasting products. Products designers need to balance many different requirements when they are developing a new product. In fact, product design is about functionality, about using efficient materials and about cost among others. As a result of that, there are some design strategies for longer lasting products:
But … is product life extension always a good idea? In general, longer lasting products are a good idea but there are exceptions for this:
1. New market for new efficient products in terms of energy: if new products appeared, people would want to replace their product rather than using it longer.
2. Some kinds of packaging make repairing, manufacturing and refurbishment situation really difficult. In fact, not all products are suited to last a long time and not all products have a permanent function over time (1).
1. Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2013). Towards the Circular Economy.
2. United Nations Environment Programme. International Resource Panel and the Commission for the European Union. (2017). Workshop Report: Promoting Remanufacturing, Refurbishment, Repair, and Direct Reuse.
3. Stahel, W-R. (2016). Circular economy. A new relationship with our goods and materials would save resources and energy and create local jobs. Nature 531: 435-438.
4. Grosse, F., Mainguy, G. (2010). Is recycling “part of the solution”? The role of recycling in an expanding society and a world of finite resources. Surveys and Perspectives Integrating Environment and Society (SAPIENS) 3: 1-17.