in the face of electronic overconsumption, the revenge of repair

Posted on November 24, 2022

It’s raining trash behind the Black Friday frenzy. Overconsumption particularly affects electronic products, the waste of which is dangerous and manufacturing which emits a lot of greenhouse gases. Repairing is becoming an essential solution, encouraged in recent months by developments at national and European level.

Electric scooters, smartphones, robot cookers… 70% of French people associate Black Friday with excess and overconsumption, according to a study conducted by Harris Interactive for Green Friday and Maif. And they are not wrong. 53.6 million tons of electronic waste, the equivalent of 11 Cheops pyramids, were produced worldwide in 2019, including 12 million tons in Europe, according to the “Global E-Waste Monitor” report carried out by several organizations of the UN.

However, electronic waste, called WEEE, is dangerous for human health and the environment. Europe recycles less than 40% and France 36.6% according to 2020 Eurostat data. This is better than the world average, but still largely insufficient. This waste also leads to overproduction, with very substantial CO2 emissions.

But immense progress is possible with repair, especially in the electronics sector. Fnac and Darty observe that 70% of purchases come from the replacement of obsolete or no longer functioning equipment. However, they note that only 35% of their customers attempt to repair their devices. Faced with this, many initiatives to extend the life of old devices have emerged in recent months.

“Repair bonus” and extension of the repairability index

The government has thus just announced the launch from December 15 of a “repair bonus”, a promise of the “anti-waste for a circular economy” law obtained after a few battles. Concretely, deductions of 10 to 45 euros will be provided thanks to a fund of 410 million euros planned for six years. The bonus will be accessible at labeled repair points and will apply to products that are no longer under warranty. “Repairing our everyday objects rather than throwing them away is good for the planet, good for purchasing power, good for jobs,” says Christophe Béchu, Minister for Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion. .

Another advance, the repairability index has become mandatory for four new product categories since November 4: top washing machines (with opening on the top), dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and high-pressure cleaners. This product repairability rating, launched in 2021, must be displayed near the price in all online or physical points of sale.

The HOP association, Halte à L’Obsolescence Programmetée, welcomes this measure but warned last year of the need to control certain manufacturers. Sellers have also been pinned by the HOP and UFC Que Choisir associations because of shortcomings in the display. The government has announced a national survey in 2023 into the reliability and display of the index.

“Many product categories remain too unsustainable”

This progress inspired the European Commission, which published a package on the circular economy in March, clarified this summer by a draft regulation of mobile phones and tablets. This introduces a repairability score and new product construction requirements. But consumer defense associations point to several limits. One of the main ones is the failure to take into account the price of spare parts, a criterion that is nevertheless essential and integrated into the French repairability index.

“The fight against planned obsolescence is in Europe to influence multinationals”, says Laetitia Vasseur, co-founder of HOP. The next step to extend the life of devices will be to work on the durability index, promised in France for 2024. The Fnac-Darty after-sales service barometer is a pioneer on the subject, classifying brands and product categories according to their durability in combining criteria of reparability, robustness and reliability.

The 2022 edition of the barometer shows an overall improvement in sustainability. However, “many product categories remain too unsustainable and unrepairable,” observes HOP. “On average, electric scooters, compact cameras, drones, coffee makers, wireless vacuum cleaners, printers and scanners, coffee makers and tea makers, wireless headphones have critical durability,” the association said.

Fanny Breuneval @breuneval_fanny

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