More use of Ecodesign and a legal framework needed

Remanufacturing a product goes one step further than repair. By disassembling a product and returning it to an like-new state, it can be sold again on the market and its lifetime is extended. The job potential in repair activities is huge. It is a labour-intensive service which requires both labour and skills. Rare materials and resources used to make these products are often buried in the ground even though most of the parts still work and are perfectly usable. And, remanufactured products cost 40-65 percent less to produce and are typically 30-40 percent cheaper for consumers.

Despite the economic potential of remanufacturing, repair centres find household products difficult to repair and remanufacturing lacks a legal framework. The MEPs argue that better use could be made of the Ecodesign Directive tool, which sets design requirements for energy-using products, and exisiting regulations that apply to the automotive sector, could be adapted to fit other products.

Remanufacturing in EU lags behind the US

The United States leads Europe in terms of developing a remanufacturing economy. The industry is worth approximately USD 43 billion and provides 180,000 full-time jobs, with SMEs accounting for 36 percent of them. The value of these economic activities is increasing by 15 percent per annum and ranges from sectors like aerospace to consumer products and medical devices. This is the success story that Europe needs to start writing.

Remanufacturing is currently working in Business-to-Business markets, but it can, and should be, scaled up to consumer products. There are many benefits to this business model: remanufacturing these electronic appliances creates highly skilled employment in Europe and causes 15 times less greenhouse gas emissions than producing a new one.

Moving towards a circular economy must go beyond just recycling of materials at a product’s end-of-life.

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