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‘Right to repair’ for electrical goods part of shift to circular economy

New legislation to extend the life of electrical products by improving their repairability has come into force for UK manufacturers, in line with wider rules coming into force across the EU.

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The Ecodesign for Energy-Related Products and Energy Information Regulations 2021 came into force on 1 July. The legislation requires that manufacturers make certain electrical goods more energy efficient and easier to repair for customers.

For the first time, consumers have a legal ‘right to repair’, with manufacturers legally obliged to make spare parts available so that their appliances are easier to fix. It applies to welding equipment, electric motors, household washing machine/washer-dryers, dishwashers, household refrigeration, commercial refrigeration and electronic displays.

Announcing the decision earlier this year, Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

“Our plans to tighten product standards will ensure more of our electrical goods can be fixed rather than thrown on the scrap heap, putting more money back in the pockets of consumers whilst protecting the environment.”

The new rules come as pressure grows on brands and manufacturers to abandon ‘premature obsolescence’ - when products are deliberately designed and built for a short lifespan. The practice is particularly widespread in electronic goods, with the UK generating around 1.5 million tonnes of electrical waste every year.

Tackling premature obsolescence is part of the wider transition towards a ‘circular economy’ where traditional ‘take-make-throwaway’ business models are replaced by practices which reduce waste and prioritise recycling, reuse and long-life. It is estimated that global material use has tripled since 1970, and less than 10 per cent is currently being reused.

What is the circular economy?

It is widely expected that further ecodesign legislation beyond electrical goods will be introduced in future.

In its 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy, the government stated that would explore expanding ecodesign standards to other product groups such as textiles and furniture. It also stated that manufacturers should be prepared to “take products back and return them to their original state, if feasible” - a process known as remanufacturing.

Examples of manufacturing practices that support the move towards a circular economy include lifecycle management, Design for Assembly (DFA) and Design for Manufacturing (DFM), modular design, and servitisation

 

For specialist one-to-one support to improve the circularity of your manufacturing business and prepare for the changes ahead, contact our Manufacturing Service.

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