Extending the lifetime and delaying obsolescence of electronics can significantly reduce their environmental and climate impacts and contribute to meeting the European Union’s (EU) environment, climate and circular economy objectives. According to a European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing, smartphones, televisions, washing machines and vacuum cleaners all are used on average for shorter periods than both their designed and desired lifetimes.
The EEA briefing ‘Europe’s consumption in a circular economy: the benefits of longer-lasting electronics’ analyses the opportunities to reduce environmental and climate impacts from electronics.
Circular economy business models — including circular design, product as a service, re-use and recycling — need to be developed to retain longer the value of electronics. To improve the ‘circularity’ of electronic products, the EEA briefing highlights the need for strengthening products’ eco-design requirements and improving their repair, disposal and re-manufacturing potentials.
- Over 20 kg of electrical and electronic products are put on the market on average per person in the EU every year, including large household appliances such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and freezers, as well as electronics and gadgets such as computers, TVs and mobile phones;
- Case studies of four different electronic product groups show all have average actual lifetimes that are at least 2.3 years shorter than either their designed or desired lifetimes. There is potential for significant increases in actual lifetime use of these products;
- Extending the lifetime and delaying obsolescence of electronics can significantly reduce impacts and contribute to meeting EU environment, climate and circularity objectives. The enabling and scaling-up of circular business models supported by the development and implementation of effective measures — eco-design, energy labeling, green public procurement (GPP) and extended producer responsibility (EPR) — can support this.