How much money do you save by extending the life of your mobile phone, washing machine or laptop?

In Germany alone, if washing machines, laptops, electric bikes, mobile phones and televisions were used for an average of five to seven more years, 3.91 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent could be prevented, a similar amount to the emissions of 1.85 million cars.

It is the result of a recent study from the Öko-Institut environmental institute commissioned by the German Federation of Consumer Organizations, VZBV. The research also concludes that with the costs of repair and use, consumers can save up to 242 euros if they use their smartphone for seven years, and almost 300 euros if they keep their laptop for ten years instead of five.

The greatest impact on emission reduction studied in different products occurs when the useful life of televisions is extended from six to 13 years, something that was common until recently.

However, each time we throw away our products earlier. As indicated in the study, the average use of large household appliances in the home fell by one year between 2004 and 2012, and not only due to technical defects. Only 57% of this type of product is replaced because it is damaged; the rest usually ends up in the trash because of programmed obsolescence, the programming calculated in advance by the manufacturer so that the product cannot be used after a certain time, or because of our desire to have a better device or with more functions.

These trends, concludes the Öko-Institut institute, have a great environmental cost and represent a great disadvantage for consumers, who have to replace their products, either because they stop working sooner, because there are no spare parts available or because repair costs very expensive. “Repair costs in Europe are often high compared to the price of new products, which are typically made in countries with very low wages,” the authors explain.

Among the solutions that they propose to reverse these guidelines and extend the useful life of the products, two stand out: demanding minimum requirements for durability, repairability and warranty on the devices, and developing economic instruments, such as the reduction of VAT in repair services . They also consider it essential to educate consumers on the environmental and economic benefits of repair, to counteract the effects of marketing.

Proposals that are included in the report approved just a month ago by the European Parliament for the European Union to adopt more forceful measures that favor reparations and sustainability. According to activist organizations, a breakthrough for consumers and their right to extend the life of their products.

The Öko-Institut report is limited to results in Germany and for only five products (washing machines, mobile phones, electric bicycles, laptops and televisions) that have been studied for common uses. But their conclusions can be extrapolated to other countries with similar consumption patterns. Although, the authors caution, estimates have always been based on the most prudent options and conclusions on environmental impact may even be higher than what appears here.


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