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19th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production – Circular Europe for Sustainability: Design, Production and Consumption

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The way to un-reparability? Insights from a quantitative analysis on long term statistics of repaired white goods and their failure causes

Electronic products constantly evolve generation wise towards more functionality, electronic integration, computational speed, while remaining or reducing physical dimensions. The price for the increasing functional density is assumed to be paid not at the beginning, but at the end, due to higher failure rates and decreased economic repairability leading to increasing amounts of electronic waste. Causes for shorter and longer lifetimes of electronic products became an interdisciplinary research area, referred to obsolescence research, which addresses this topic beyond the sole product focus towards societal and business interdependencies. The analysis aims to give quantitative insights on the evolution of repairability to drive the discussion from a practical product side. The quantitative analysis is based on more than 27000 data entries that where collected since 2002 within a German repair facility for small and large household equipment (focused product groups: washing machines, dish washers, fridges and dryers). The repair statistic comprises the product failure symptoms as described by consumers respectively non-professionals, the actual broken parts as well as the time series evolution of total repaired products, repair costs and duration. Though product categories slightly differ, results from the analysed data indicate general rising repair costs, increasing amount of total repaired devices while repair time per product decreased concurrently. Further studies towards cost effective repairability have been taken into account to validate the findings. Concluding on the overall analysis, further question have been risen towards the ongoing evolution of repairability: are newer products becoming easier to repair and are prices for repair on younger products rising and therefore not economically repairable?

Eduard Wagner
TU Berlin

Janis Winzer
Fraunhofer IZM

Eric Poppe
Sustainum Consulting


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