Rüdenauer, I. & S. PrakashEconomic and ecological effects of extending the life cycle of electrical and electronic devices – Using the example of smartphones, notebooks, washing machines, televisions and e-bikes (pedelecs)

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‪Ina Rüdenauer & Siddharth Prakash

Release date:
November 2020

Öko Institute e.V., study on behalf of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv)

For some years now, there has been increasing evidence that the life cycle of electrical and electronic products has decreased. In addition to technical defects, there are also others reasons why devices are replaced earlier, e.g. software-induced obsolescence or the desire for newer devices with more or better functions (Prakash et al. 2016c). Long-lasting products and consumers who (want to) use the devices for a long time are therefore two sides of the same coin. Both, manufacturers of products and consumers are responsible for using the product for as long as possible. Especially if the devices stop working prematurely and repairs are not possible
or do not make sense for economic reasons, this is a disadvantage for consumers who need to replace the device with a new one. A long product lifespan is also benefifical for ecological reasons in terms of resource consumption and global warming potential (see e.g. Prakash and Rüdenauer (2018)). The consideration of the life cycle and reparability in the context of product policy is merely in the beginning. For example, in 2019, for the first time, corresponding minimum requirements, especially with regard to repairability and the availability of spare parts, were included in the ecodesign regulations for six product groups. (see e.g. ECOS (2019)). The trend towards a shorter service life of products is accompanied by the desire at least from large ones share consumers against using products longer. Against this background, the present study attempts to answer the following questions using the example of the product groups washing machines, notebooks, smartphones, televisions and e-bikes:

  • What specific expectations do consumers have regarding the lifespan of certain products?
  • What are the economic advantages for households if the useful life would meet their expectations?
  • What positive effect would this have on the climate balance?

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