Tag: product repair

Why Product Repair is so Important (And How We Can Make It Easier)

Why Product Repair is so Important
(And How We Can Make It Easier)

Product Repair is Planet Repair

Every time a new product is made it has an impact.

Products don’t just appear out of thin air. (How cool would it be if they did!?)

Unfortunately, every time a new product is made, resources get used up. Energy, land, raw materials, all that good stuff. Emissions get emitted, and usually, there are other environmental consequences involved too.

Factory chimneys pumping out clouds of emissions into the air next to water.

Almost always, when a product is produced, there are negative environmental consequences involved. So product repair is essential to ensure that every product we do produce, lasts as long as possible. Photo by Maxim Tolchinskiy on Unsplash.

Every time a new product is made it has an impact. So doesn’t it make sense to ensure every single product we produce lasts as long as possible? So we can maximise the value we get from all those resources we used to make the product?

Well of course it does! And one of the best ways we can do that is through product repair.

If we can focus on making products that are easy to repair, we can bring them back to life when they stop working. This is probably the best way to eradicate what we’ve started calling ‘single-life products’ for good. We are positive the planet would agree that this is a very good idea!

But unfortunately, a whole lot of products have been getting more and more difficult to repair in recent years. So what are we going to do about it?

The Issue: Product Repair Becoming Impractical

Particularly when it comes to modern electronics, products are not as easy to repair as they used to be.

Naturally, as technology has progressed, products have become more advanced. But the way manufacturers are choosing to design many of these products is not helping!

By doing things like glueing and soldering components together, using non-standard screws, and limiting access to spare parts, many brands are making products unnecessarily difficult and expensive to repair.

Person handing smartphone with smashed screen to other person above glass shop counter.

With components often glued and soldered together, repairing many modern devices has become unnecessarily difficult and expensive. Photo by PR MEDIA on Unsplash.

And as these devices become more and more integral in our everyday lives, it’s no surprise that we’re producing more electronic waste globally than ever before.

If we want to start reducing this waste — while still using all our lovely devices of course — then product repair is a big deal. And we mean practical, affordable, easily accessible product repair.

There are plenty of ways we can make this happen.

Solutions: How We Can Make Product Repair Easier

It’s encouraging to know that steps are already being taken around the world to boost product repair. But more still needs to be done!

So where are we right now, and what still needs to happen?

What’s Already Happening?

As you might expect, the steadily decreasing repairability of modern-day products has not gone unnoticed. So thankfully, some action is already being taken to make product repair more accessible.

Right to Repair

Last year, what are known as ‘right to repair’ regulations were introduced in the UK and the EU.

These regulations are basically designed to force manufacturers to make their products easier to repair. Currently, anyone making TVs, electronic displays, lighting, fridges, dishwashers, or washing machines and wash-dryers in the UK and the EU is affected by these new rules.

And under these new rules:

  • Manufacturers of these products will be legally obligated to make spare parts available to professional repairers and/or end-users. The parts must remain available for at least 7-10 years after a product has been discontinued.
  • Manufacturers must provide repair parts and manuals to professional repairers within 15 days of request.
  • Repairs must be possible using commonly available tools.

Man wearing black open suit jacket and white shirt holding card with half union jack and half EU flag up to the camera.

Just last year, right to repair laws were introduced in the UK and the EU. These laws are aimed at making certain products easier to repair.

Now we would say these new rules are absolutely a welcome move in the right direction. But you might have noticed that they don’t include anything about smartphones, tablets, or laptops. Or cookers or hobs or tumble dryers or microwaves or coffee machines or kettles or a whole load of other commonly used items!

There’s also no guarantee that replacement parts will be affordable, and many of the parts will only be made available to professional repairers.

So of course we welcome these new laws with open, grateful, repairable, circular arms. But more still needs to be done.

Repairability Index

Speaking of more being done, France has already taken an extra repair-friendly step.

Since the start of last year, they’ve been requiring anyone who manufactures smartphones, laptops, TVs, washing machines, and electric lawnmowers to give these products a repairability score.

According to this ‘repairability index’, each product must be rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the easiest to repair. Each manufacturer must score their products based on availability of technical documents to aid in repair, ease of disassembly, availability of spare parts, and a sub-criteria specific to the product category concerned.

This score — and all the information that went into calculating it — must be made available to consumers when they purchase any of these products.

The idea is that by forcing manufacturers to explicitly tell consumers how repairable their products are, they’ll be much more likely to actually make repairing them easier.

Everyone does love getting high scores on stuff right?

But how can we all start getting even higher scores when it comes to product repair?

What Still Needs to Happen to Make Product Repair Easier?

Progress is being made in the fight to make product repair more accessible, and it really is great to see. But we’re not quite there yet!

Here’s a few things we reckon would help us get over the line.

Expand Right to Repair

If we really want to make a difference, we need to implement strict right to repair laws for as many product categories as possible. In as many countries around the world as possible.

As we mentioned above, the right to repair laws introduced in the UK and the EU last year currently don’t apply to a whole bunch of widely used products. And they’re not super strict when it comes to making spare parts affordable, and easily available for everyone.

We’re sure this will happen soon enough, but if we really want to make a difference, we need to implement strict right to repair laws for as many product categories as possible. In as many countries around the world as possible.

We need laws that ensure spare parts are available to everyone, at an affordable price. And it should become standard for all products to come with clear and comprehensive instructions for repair.

If we can get to that stage, we’ll really be getting somewhere!

Repairability Scores Everywhere We Go!

One way to help us get to that stage is to take France’s repairability index and implement it far and wide. (Geographically and product-categorically) (That is a word we swear!)

If manufacturers everywhere are forced to tell us how repairable their products are, it surely won’t be long before they get their act together. (Repair their act even??)

Make Circular Design a Priority

And the best way any manufacturer can do that, is to embrace circular design.

Designing for circularity means carefully designing products with end-of-life management as the most important feature.

Circular products are designed from the very beginning to last as long as possible. Durability, repairability, upgradability, recyclability; these are all absolutely key features of any product designed using circular design principles.

Man using pen to draw sketches of a scooter on an open notebook with white pages.

If a product is designed using circular design principles, you can be sure it’ll be easily repairable! Photo by Kumpan Electric on Unsplash.

Basically, circular design is used to create products that remain valuable even after they’ve served their initial purpose. And this most definitely involves doing things like:

  • Simplifying products as much as possible.
  • Using as many standard components as possible.
  • Choosing modular designs when applicable.
  • Making products easy to disassemble.
  • Using recycle-friendly materials.
  • Making spare parts readily available.

If all manufacturers start doing this, product repair will never be an issue again. And we can wave goodbye to single-life products for good!

But until that happens, there’s still plenty we can do at home to make our products more repairable.

What Can You Do Now?

Repair needs to become the first thing we think about when a product stops working. We need to get excited about repair!

As things like right to repair, repairability scores, and circular design hopefully become more commonplace, products should gradually become easier to repair.

And as that happens, it’s also important that we as consumers embrace this change. Repair needs to become the first thing we think about when a product stops working. We need to get excited about repair! As excited as we get when we think about buying a new product! And as well as getting professionals to do the repairing, we need to welcome the challenge of repairing things ourselves.

We live in the age of the internet people! There are so many resources out there that can help us learn how to repair things ourselves! (Obviously the products need to be designed for repair in the first place, but as we’ve seen that is slowly happening).

Here’s a great list of info and resources that’ll help you get repairing in no time. One of the best ones is iFixit, which offers spare parts, tools, diagnostics, product repairability reviews, and even a Youtube channel with guides on how to repair all sorts of products.

With resources like these, and products that are actually designed for repair, we can all come together to make the products we use and love last.

No doubt, our planet will thank us.

This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

Continue reading

What Are Single-Life Products and Why Are They an Issue?

Single-Life Products and Why Are They becoming an Issue?

Disposable Gets a New Name

We reckon if you can’t turn a product into something new once you’re done with it, or prolong its life if it breaks, it ought to be considered disposable.

If you use a product 1000 times before throwing it in the rubbish, would you consider that product to be disposable?

Most people would probably answer that question with something like: “Disposable? No Way! What the heck are you talking about? That’s clearly a reusable product you’ve got there.”

And that assessment would be fair enough. Because in today’s world, the term ‘disposable’ has become exclusively associated with single-use products. But we think this limited use of the word disposable when describing products is an absolute travesty! See we reckon if you can’t turn a product into something new once you’re done with it, or prolong its life if it breaks, it ought to be considered disposable. No matter how many times you initially use it.

But since the term disposable already seems to be taken, we’ve come up with a term of our own. A better term. A fairer term. A term that encompasses all products — both single-use and reusable — that we feel are ultimately disposable.

And that term is: ‘Single-Life Products.’

But simply coining a term isn’t going to get us very far is it? Probably best that we elaborate.

What Are Single-Life Products?

Simply put, single-life products are any products that are likely to end up as waste once their initial purpose has been served. So this must mean any product that’s recyclable or repairable doesn’t count as a single-life product, right? Well, not necessarily.

See there are plenty of products out there that can technically be recycled, but for various reasons the recycling process for that product just isn’t practical enough for it to actually happen.

(This can often be the case with products made from multiple materials. Different materials need to be separated before they can be recycled, which of course takes time and effort. If this process isn’t cost-effective, it’s very unlikely the product will be recycled. So even when you throw a technically recyclable product in the recycling bin, it can still end up as waste).

There are also plenty of products out there that are of course repairable, if you’ve got the tools, parts, expertise, or money to do it! (Nearly half of folks in the UK surveyed in 2020 said they’d buy a new tablet or smartphone instead of repairing their current one. Cost and inconvenience of repair were two of the main reasons for this).

Smartphone with screen removed and inner components exposed resting on dark surface.

Many products, including various modern electronic devices, are either too difficult, or too expensive to repair. So a lot of people end up just buying a replacement instead. Photo by Joel Rohland on Unsplash.

These ‘recyclable’ and ‘repairable’ products that are not practical to recycle or repair are also single-life products. Basically, if you have to really go out of your way to make sure a product doesn’t end up as waste, it is single-life! And that counts for reusables as well as single-use items.

But is this even a big deal? Shouldn’t one life be enough for these products?

Why Are Single-Life Products an Issue?

Every single time a new product is produced, some amount of energy and resources will be used up.

Reusable coffee cups, reusable cups and flasks made from coated stainless steel, most ceramics and drink glasses, many modern electronic devices. These are just some examples of single-life products. But so what? Why does this really matter?

Well, where do we even start?


Maybe it makes sense to start at the start. The beginning of a product’s life where resources and energy are required to actually make the product possible.

Every single time a new product is produced, some amount of energy and resources will be used up. (This is even true for products made from recycled materials, as energy will be needed to mould these recycled materials into new products).

And as resource extraction and processing is one of the main contributors to climate change and biodiversity-loss worldwide, it makes a whole lot of sense to try and limit our use of fresh resources as much as we conceivably can!

This is never going to happen when we still have single-life products, because the resources these products contain are never likely to be used again. What a waste.


Factory with red and white stripy chimney emitting smoke next to motorway.

Unfortunately for every new product we produce, it’s very likely there are going to be some emissions involved! Photo by Marcin Jozwiak from Pexels.

Of course every time a new product is produced there are also emissions involved. Deadly, dangerous, planet-warming emissions! Each new product needs to be manufactured, packaged, and transported around the world. So wouldn’t it make sense to make sure every product has as many lives as possible?

Global Waste Crisis

Now we get to the part where the product has served its initial purpose. If it’s a single-life product, repairing or recycling it won’t be a practical or cost-effective option. And so, you guessed it, the product inevitably ends up as waste.

And that is a big problem. Possibly bigger than most people even realise.

Globally, we are producing more waste today than ever before, and worldwide waste is expected to nearly double by 2050. Not all of this waste comes from single-life products of course, but some of it does.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What’s the Solution?

As we’ve seen, single-life products lead to increased resource extraction, pollution, emissions, and waste. Basically, they make this planet a less hospitable place for us to live. And the thing is, no product ever really needs to be single-life!

This is an issue that in some way affects every one of us, and if we want to, we can all be a part of the solution.

Before we ever even get to the production stage, it’s possible to eradicate single-life products by designing for circularity. So products are easy to repair, and practical to recycle.

And if we can combine circular design with other solutions like extended producer responsibility, legislation to make product repair more accessible, appropriate adjustments to recycling infrastructure, and collaboration between everyone involved, there’s no reason we ever have to produce a single-life product again.

But maybe the first thing you can do to tackle the issue is; share this article with as many folks as possible! Get the word out! Single-life products are not good enough and we all need to come together and do better! Design better, produce better, buy better, collaborate better, demand better!

This is an issue that in some way affects every one of us, and if we want to, we can all be a part of the solution.

For us, the solution has already begun.

This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

Continue reading

Circular&Co., Unit 6, Cligga Head Industrial Estate, St. Georges Hill, Perranporth, Cornwall TR6 0EB
01872 575000 | Contact Us

© 2023 Circular&CO. Property of ashortwalk LTD. Website by Channel Digital