Extending the lifetime and delaying obsolescence of electronics can significantly reduce their environmental and climate impacts and contribute to meeting the European Union’s (EU) environment, climate and circular economy objectives.
According to a European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, published today, smartphones, televisions, washing machines and vacuum cleaners all are used on average for shorter periods than both their designed and desired lifetimes.
The EEA briefing ‘Europe’s consumption in a circular economy: the benefits of longer-lasting electronics’ analyses the opportunities to reduce environmental and climate impacts from electronics by increasing product lifetime, delaying obsolescence and improving their suitability for circular economy business models. More than 18 kilograms of electrical and electronic products are consumed, on average, per person in the EU every year.
According to the EEA briefing, case studies on smartphones, TVs, washing machines and vacuum cleaners show that these product types all have average actual lifetimes that are at least 2.3 years shorter than their designed or desired lifetimes. This means that there is significant potential for increasing these products’ lifetimes by, for example, making them easier to use for longer periods, re-use, repair, remanufacture or recycle.
Circular economy business models — including circular design, product as a service, re-use and recycling — need to be developed to retain longer the value of electronics. To improve the ‘circularity’ of electronic products, the EEA briefing highlights the need for strengthening products’ eco-design requirements and improving their repair, disposal and re-manufacturing potentials. Other measures include increased use of the EU Energy Label, development of green public procurement, and extension of producer responsibility to products’ end of life.