Repair, recycle or reincarnate? The product life cycle and the circular economy.

25 July 2019

Posted on by Angela Murphy

Electrical retailers have always had to respond rapidly to technological – and cultural – changes.

So it is not surprising the rise of the circular economy will have an impact on businesses – and those in electrical retail in particular.

In the circular economy, the aim is to keep products working for as long (and as safely as possible), and then to recover and re-use materials at the end of product life.

But this can complicate the sustainability and safety of products, particularly when considering the ‘right to repair’.

Currently, most manufacturers do not make spare parts for repairs – particularly for tech products - available to consumers.  While there are some manufacturer-approved repairers, they often take some time to return an item. 

With many people carrying their life on their mobiles, delays are unacceptable. So people often buy spare parts online, which can be substandard, untested and potentially dangerous.

Or they use an unlicensed high-street or market repair shop, which may not have the expertise or equipment to ensure the repaired item is fully functional and safe.

The EU is currently developing right to repair legislation, which the UK will mirror, even after we leave the Single Market.  It will aim to address environmental concerns and e-waste and make products easier for consumers to have repaired.

Electrical Safety First wants manufacturers to help establish and support a network of authorised repairers. And, when it makes economic and environmental sense, to make products that people can fix themselves. This would, we believe, protect both consumers and brand value, as well as improve safety.

As part of the EU’s wider Ecodesign Directive, the law will come into force from April 2021. Products impacted will include washing machines, fridges and a range of other household electrical appliances.


Electrical Safety First hosts a number of industry events to keep you up to date regarding relevant product safety legislation. The next one – which will focus on conformity assessments – will be held on Monday 23rd September at Mary Ward House, Tavistock Place, London. Tickets available here: https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/professional-resources/events/conformity-assessment-design-and-production/

For more information about our events, please contact Ellen at ellen.vester@electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk or visit https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/professional-resources/events/

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