- Consumer Information for SCP
In a society of mass consumption characterized by short lifetime of products, it is urgent to encourage sustainable production, responsible consumption and better use of resources. The transition towards more sustainable practices relies to a great extent upon the ability of governments to enhance the uptake of more durable and repairable products, contributing to reduce pollution and the pressure on natural resources.
Product lifetime extension (PLE) is the postponement or reversal of the obsolescence of a product through deliberate intervention. This can be done by designing more durable products so that consumers can use them for a longer time, by extending their use through maintenance and upgrades, and by recovering broken products through repair.
A variety of different policy measures has been applied to enhance the useful life of a product worldwide. The report offers an overview of the main policy instruments and initiatives through which some countries have addressed the topic of product lifetime extension. The policy measures included in the report are regulation against planned obsolescence, minimum durability criteria, extended product warranty, product repairability and consumers education, consumer rights, consumer protection and information policies. The report demonstrates that product repairability is by far the most common policy instrument being used and/or discussed by countries on the topic, whereas minimum durability criteria are the least used.
The publication shows that nature of the regulatory and policy landscape relevant for the postponement or reversal of the obsolescence of a product is highly specific on national contexts. Even though not all countries were covered in this overview, the report made it clear that the engagement in creating and promoting policies that encourage greater resource efficiency has been increasing over the last two decades. However, more policy attention still needs to be directed to the design and use phases of products, particularly to certain product categories such as textiles, as it was observed that most policies covered in the report target electronic products and white goods.
THE ROLE OF CONSUMER INFORMATION
Policies alone might not be enough be to reach consumers widely. The use of consumer information tools can also guide consumers towards products that have a better environmental performance, including at the use and disposal phases. Consumer information tools can also inform and help educate consumers to correctly use and dispose of products, therefore contributing to material flow returning to the economy.
Voluntary instruments and efficient communication tools are still needed to strengthen consumers awareness on how they can engage in product lifetime extension strategies. This is generally based on the rationale that if consumers have better information, they are able to make better decisions.
Further inputs are welcome to complement the research! Although extensive efforts were undertaken to find relevant policies, it is possible that relevant policies from countries may not have been captured in the analysis. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are aware of any relevant policies not yet covered in the report!
The report “Policy Instruments on Product Lifetime Extension - Relevant policies that countries have in place, or aspire to, for addressing product lifetime extension” was launched on the 29th of July 2021, as an output of the Consumer Information Programme. Its preparation was led by UNEP, with support from Akatu Institute and from the members of the Product Lifetime Extension Working Group. The preparation and publication of this document was made possible through the sponsorship of the French Ministry for Ecological and Solidary Transition.