Key measures for governments, the private sector, NGOs and consumers to achieve a circular economy through product lifetime extension
27 July 2020
  • Consumer Information for SCP

Current patterns of consumption and production are not sustainable and the way that products are designed to be used and disposed of is a big part of problem. The lifetime of many products is becoming shorter and shorter, with vast amounts of waste being produced when these products ultimately become unusable after a few years or sometimes even less, pushing us beyond all planetary boundaries.

This is clearly shown in the report The Long View: Exploring Product Lifetime Extension, developed by the One Planet Consumer Information Programme. This linear economic model, also known as a ‘take-make-dispose’ economy, is rapidly reaching its physical and environmental limits. These limitations prove to be increasingly risky during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having tremendous impacts on the waste sector. 


Governments need to strengthen policies, business need to advance practices


Governments and businesses must implement and strengthen policies and practices that enable consumers to keep products for longer if we are to reach our sustainability ambitions in the recovery from COVID-19. This would also make a valuable contribution towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12 on Sustainable Consumption and Production. 
Product lifetime extension is a major component of the transition towards a more circular economy: it reduces waste and saves resources, while preserving the economic value embedded in products. This is a win-win situation for the environment, the economy and the society. Reducing waste and saving resources benefits the environment. The economy gains from cost savings for businesses, which also gain opportunity to innovate their business practices. The society benefits by getting better value for money and being better informed on what they buy. 

 

3 effective strategies for product lifetime extension

 

1 – Change existing regulations and implement new policies 

Value retention policies and regulations play a key role in addressing product lifetime extension by stimulating the transition of businesses and consumers towards a circular economy, and correcting consumer information asymmetry on product lifetime. Ultimately, product lifetime extension policy measures have the potential to promote resource efficiency gains throughout products’ life cycles, complementing current efforts in improving energy efficiency, which are to date amongst the most common strategies to improve resource efficiency at a product level. 
 
 
2- Build new business models

More sustainable and circular product design and business models are amongst the most effective strategies to make products last longer. To illustrate how this can happen in practice, UNEP has collected inspiring real-life case studies that target circular business solutions for product design and use. Those business strategies involve using products for a longer time, maintaining and upgrading them, and the recovery of broken products through second-hand markets, upcycling, repairing, and remanufacturing. 
 

3 – Make more informed choices 

Consumers can contribute by taking good care of products and taking action such as repairing when possible. Additionally, consumers should let go of the concept that reused, repaired, refurbished and remanufactured products are inferior to new ones. By choosing more durable and repairable products, engaging in second-hand markets, participating in reverse logistics or returning products to producers after use, consumers can make an important contribution to product lifetime extension and a more circular economy. Non-governmental organizations can further support consumers by monitoring law implementation, raising awareness, informing advocacy, and sharing relevant information on the topic.

 

Collaboration is key 


Solutions are needed that engage and address consumers, and all other relevant actors of the society, including policymakers, NGOs, and businesses. With this is mind, the One Planet network Consumer Information Programme has set up a working group, led by UNEP and the Akatu Institute to strengthen collaboration and advance work on product lifetime extension for a more circular economy. This work is funded by the French Ministry for Ecological and Solidary Transition. Relevant resources can be accessed on the Product Lifetime Extension Hub of our website.

If you’re interested in engaging and contributing to the working programme and this working group, please reach out to ciscp@un.org!

 

 

 

  • Consumer Information for SCP
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