The untold story about premature obsolescence is that products are not designed to have a shorter life.
The untold story about premature obsolescence is that products are not designed to have a shorter life. Instead, it is a combination of behavioural and legal aspects that determines the lifetime of a product. “We need to distinguish between lab and real-life durability, where the latter is considerably affected by use conditions,” said Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director General, who was one of the panellists of the event organised by European Consumer Organisation BEUC on product durability. Use frequency of a product, along with installation, location, and type of use consumers make of it, affect its overall durability.
Product durability is a central element of Europe’s approach towards circularity, and it is fully supported by the industry. While it is commonly acknowledged that long lasting products reduce resource consumption and waste, it is also in the interest of manufacturers to sell products that last, as their brand reputation could be at stake. Which makes enhancing products’ durability, a desirable goal for all.
The willingness to shift towards more sustainable products has led to major legal developments and proposals over the past years. Making sustainable products the norm is the ultimate goal of the EU’s proposed Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). Energy efficiency, resource efficiency, use of recycled materials but also durability and repairability, among others. The roads to sustainability are many and they should all be equally valued. Products should be assessed based on an “aggregated evaluation of different parameters, which as a whole, define their sustainability,” stated Falcioni. The framework legislation should allow manufacturers the flexibility to lead the way on sustainability, rewarding all efforts that are made to the ultimate, common, goal.
Repairability is another critical aspect when assessing the lifetime of products and is already a “reality” for the industry. According to data collected from the APPLiA membership, 91% of requests to manufacturers for a repair of a product resulted in an actual repair in 2018. In this sense, the EU’s proposed Right to Repair marks a step in the right direction establishing a clear hierarchy of remedies, promoting repair whenever economically viable. When repair is not the optimal option, replacing a defective product with a refurbished one should be considered.
Paolo Falcioni was one of the panellists of the event ‘To bin or not to bin? How testing can help design products that last longer', organised by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).