AMDEA CEO Paul Hide has written an opinion piece on sustainability for the latest edition of Ingenia, which is the official publication for the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The article, which is titled ‘Repair Or Replace – What Drives A Circular Economy?’ and can be read here, looks at the ‘right to repair’ regulations which came into force in July 2021, and argues why taking a more sustainable approach to home appliances – replacing products with new models, rather than expecting consumers to repair them – might be a better, and safer, option.
In the piece, Mr Hide said: “We should reflect on what drives repair versus replacement and what motivates us when faced with appliances that no longer operate as intended. Domestic appliances are ubiquitous in terms of household penetration. There are an estimated 170 million large and over 300 million small appliances in the UK’s 29 million homes. Of the 15 million new appliances sold in the UK last year, most replace an existing product, so what drives this replacement purchase?”
He added: “We take for granted that appliances usually run reliably for years with no requirement for maintenance or servicing, providing a consistent level of performance at the touch of a button. We keep appliances for longer than many of us realise. In 2020, Which? reported that in the UK, on average, large appliances are kept for between 16 and 23 years, depending on the type of appliance. So, based on this length of ownership is it realistic to expect householders to extend the life of their appliances even longer through repair to, say, 25 or 30 years?”
On potential safety issues brought about by the ‘right to repair’, Mr Hide said: “There has been much talk about encouraging consumers to conduct their own repairs and maintenance. This has the potential to be a serious safety issue where repairs are undertaken on appliances that use high voltage, have high speed moving parts or generate heat as part of their operating cycle. There is a reason that it takes several years to fully train a repair engineer.
“Appliances can be complex to fault diagnose and repair and much of the training focuses on safe disassembly, repair and reassembly. We would not want to encourage untrained personnel to attempt more than very simple repairs, such as replacing door seals, shelving or fixing cosmetic parts, to do otherwise would be irresponsible for us as an industry and could lead to an increase in appliance-related fires or personal injury.”
Mr Hide also highlighted how replacing old appliances with new models is much better for the environment and the circular economy: “The other factor when considering repair or replace is the relative efficiency of older versus newer appliances. For example, fridge freezers now use 40% less energy than those sold a decade ago and washing machines 35% less water.
“Fifteen per cent of an average home’s energy consumption is used to run appliances and therefore we need to maintain the replacement cycle of older versus newer appliances to reach the target of net zero homes, as, once built, an appliance does not become more energy efficient.”
To read the full article, click here.