Why use electronics longer? Electronics have transformed our lives in recent decades but they have also created two large problems.
Raw materials and e-waste
Using electronics longer reduces the number of appliances going into waste streams every year, decreasing the need for new resources (e.g. valuable metals) and reducing the environmental impact of e-waste.
Lots of energy goes into making products/materials. By using them longer, you spread these emissions over a longer time period. A recent study in Europe found that extending the life of consumers' smartphones, washing machines, laptops and vacuum cleaners by just one year could create ~4 million tonnes of CO2 savings annually.
Who needs to change?
Many companies already make durable and repairable products and are also branching into new business models which favour longer product life (product as a service, leasing etc.) but this needs to happen quicker, and on a larger scale.
'Right to repair' and Eco-design directives in Europe mean that governments are making iteasier for lifetime to be extended. In Germany, repair bonuses are also now being offered by some municipalities. Strong legislation is required across the world.
More and more consumers understand that keeping electronics in use for longer is good for their wallet and the environment - but moreawareness is needed.
Lifetime extension is an important mid-term step to achieving a circular economy. Until we move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable-powered high-tech recycling, lifetime extension of products is a straightforward way to ensure this.
Increasing product lifespans will involve giving up some of the benefits offered by new products assuming older products cannot be upgraded.
How can consumers act today?
Increasing product lifespans
Choosing long-lasting, repairable appliances and maintaining them carefully to extend lifespan (including buying refurbished appliances).
Repairing instead of replacing appliance
In Germany, repairing electronic equipment is becoming easier and more affordable with repair bonus schemes and increasing numbers of 'repair cafes'.
Understanding the lifespan of appliance
Try to find out how long a device should last for... some washing machines last 20 years and many smartphones could be used for much longer.
Selling/Donating used equipment or renting/leasing equipment
If the lifespan of smartphones in Germany increased from 2.5 to 7 years, consumers could save ~35 EUR/Year each and avoid nearly 1 million tonnes of CO2e annually on a national level.