Exploring Product Lifetime Extension
The extension of products’ lifetime makes a compelling case towards circularity as it enables a radical decrease in the use of natural resources and in waste generation, while preserving the economic value embedded in the products.
The Long View: Exploring Product Lifetime Extension report, developed by UN Environment partnered with TU Delft and supported by the French Ministry for Ecological and Solidary Transition, was launched in 2017. The report provides recommendations and opportunities available to consumers, the private sector and especially governments of both developed and developing economies on how to address the issue of product lifetime extension.
According to the Long View report, life cycle assessments demonstrate that for some resource intensive products the newer generations of products are not always more energy efficient compared to older ones. This means that measures for extending product lifetime should be context and product-specific in order to prevent the unnecessary substitution of products and to allow the reduction of energy use.
In line with this, some companies are working towards sustainability by adopting product lifetime extension strategies such as: increased durability and easy maintenance, upgrading, repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing and recontextualization of products. To illustrate how these strategies are implemented in practice, success case studies from different business sectors were collected from both developing and developed countries. This project was produced under the One Planet Network Consumer Information Programme, in a partnership by UN Environment and the Akatu Institute, funded by the French Ministry for Ecological and Solidary Transition.
Seven companies around the globe shared their initiatives that directly address the product lifetime extension. The case studies share information and lessons learned that are both educational to the general public and inspiring to other organizations and companies.
The companies that contributed to the project are:
- Caterpillar(USA): a global machinery company and one of the world´s remanufacturing leaders. The business case focuses on the exchange of a nonfunctional item and its replacement by a remanufactured one.
- Geração Ecotrônicos(Brazil): a cooperative focused on avoiding the accumulation of electronic waste in landfills and dumps by repairing and recovering used electronic devices received from companies and/or single users.
- Neptuno Pumps(Chile): a Centrifugal Pumps’ manufacturer designed an innovative pump system focused on efficient use of resources, through remanufacturing and repairing, to produce new high engineering products with lower resources consumption.
- OLX(Brazil): an online marketplace which enables second-hand products’ exchanges through their platform.
- Refazenda(Brazil): a fashion business based on the use of secondary materials and the upcycle of textiles.
- Retalhar(Brazil): a company that receives end of life uniforms from companies and upcycles them for use as raw materials in new products manufacturing.
- Swane Design(Germany/ Senegal): a décor and design company which combines fine design with upcycling in order to produce furniture and house accessories at lower environmental costs.
The “Product Lifetime Extension: Which business models work” webinar was broadcasted on January 30th2019. The webinar counted on the representatives from OLX Brazil, Geração Ecotrônicos, Retalhar and Refazenda, who shared their experiences about product lifetime extension from different points of view. The recording is available on One Planet Network’s YouTube channel (access here.
Another output of the project is a video that highlights how businesses can apply product lifetime extension and circularity concepts to their strategies as well as how consumers can embed practices that favors products’ lifetime extension. The video is available here.
The outputs of the project uncovered barriers and opportunities within product lifetime extension strategies. Information and data are fundamental to frame adequate strategies to distinct contexts and economies, contributing to a transition towards a development model that is less dependent on resource extraction and is less wasteful. With these activities, we highlight how consumers, businesses and government can help acceleration towards circularity.
Product lifetime extension is therefore a win-win situation for the environment, the economy and the society. The environment is benefited through reduction of waste and resources saving. The economy gains from costs saving for businesses, which also gain opportunity for innovating their practices. And the society is benefited through getting better value for money and being better informed on what they buy.
The product lifetime work of the Consumer Information Programme is led by UN Environment and Akatu Institute and funded by the French Ministry for Ecological and Solidary Transition. The report ‘The Long View’ was authored by TU Delft, which regularly organizes the international conference Product Lifetimes and the Environment (PLATE).