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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 Benelux method: Repairability assessment for electric and electronic products

As a consequence of our current throw-away society and the current lack of incentives for manufacturers to apply eco-design to their products, consumer goods are nowadays less durable and repairable than in the past. Research has shown that the average product lifetime of many products is decreasing. Repairing modern electrical and electronic equipment is becoming increasingly difficult. These encountered challenges also significantly contribute to the costs associated with repair, making direct replacement of a product often the most straightforward option for the consumer. Therefore, the Benelux Union has requested a study to investigate extending product life time by exploring repairability criteria for products. This research supports ongoing European standardization processes at CEN-CENELEC and research on repairability of products performed at the European Joint Research Centre (JRC). The overall aim of this study is to evaluate and, if possible, quantify the ease of repair for energy-related products (ErPs) considering the economic impact from a consumer perspective. In order to meet this objective, repairability criteria for ErPs are proposed. The developed “Benelux repairability method” is a semi-quantitative method. Although the developed criteria focus on technical feasibility of the repair, for some criteria, for example related to spare part, the cost aspects were not completely excluded. The Benelux method does not only assess self-repair but also include criteria related to the availability of professional repair services for more complex failures. The developed criteria are applied in specific case studies for washing machines and vacuum cleaners. For each case study, first the selected product group is defined and characterized, the assessed product model is briefly described and, finally, the repairability criteria are applied and the selected options are justified. Depending on the repair route, in house, professional repairer or self-repair, different challenges will need to be overcome and this must be taken into account when assessing the repairability of products. In the case studies, both perspectives of a professional repairer and an end-user or consumer are considered. The repairability score for a professional repairer is higher than for a consumer because of the limited information that is available for consumers in most cases. For the vacuum cleaners consideredin the case studies, the accessibility of spare parts is also better for professional repairers compared to consumers. To reduce subjectivity of the results, the repair evaluation should include as much as possible measurable parameters. Sub-aggregated results that take the interdependencies of criteria into account are useful to facilitate the interpretation of the final repairability score. In addition, the focus of the evaluation should remain limited to the priority parts because most common product failures can be traced back to a number of specific parts. Finally, the repair evaluation method should be tailored to specific product categories and weights should be assigned that reflect the relative importance of each criteria.

Ellen Bracquené
University of Leuven - KU Leuven


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