Product Lifespans And Repair

Supervisor: Miles Park

A common understanding is that modern products are becoming increasingly difficult to repair – especially for consumer electrical and electronic devices which have the greatest environmental impact when discarded and are typically have short lifespans. However, in recent years we have seen a growing interest on repair and reparability as a strategy towards sustainability. This has been partly driven by increased public attention to the issue of repair. The global ‘Right-to-Repair’ movement, and international Consumer Protection Agencies, as well as numerous NGOs in the environmental sector, have formed a strong lobby for repairing as a consumer right and is an important way to decrease a product’s ecological footprint. At the same time, media attention has increased for fixing and making initiatives in Repair Cafés, Makerspaces as well as online resources like iFixit. The growing number of these grassroots activities accompanied by revisions to the European Ecodesign Directive will strengthen the “right to repair” and to increase a producer’s responsibility to the reparability of their products.

Product repair

If repair is indeed declining, then it is useful to understand at the broad business and economic contributing factors. Consumer attitudes and the way people think about product repairability can also be a self-imposed barrier to repair. Repairability may be a desirable feature for consumers when purchasing a product, but it is often not made explicit or clearly understood.

Primarily, product design is key in determining repairability. If a product enables logical or easy disassembly it can reduce a significant barrier to repair. Equally, products designed for disassembly reduce the time and, accordingly, the cost associated with repair activities. Design for disassembly also offers benefits for end of life for the separation of parts and material recovery.

This ID Honours research stream on xxx  will support project proposals from students along the lines of:

  • Examples of repairing and/or mending in different societal contexts
  • Repairing and mending as everyday practices
  • Repair spaces i.e. repairing together: Repair Cafes, Makerspaces, Men’s Sheds, etc.
  • Historical perspectives on product obsolescence and repair
  • Types of repair: professional repair services, amateur repair, guerrilla, self-repair
  • The role of repair in the developing world
  • The role of product design for repairability
  • Technological evolutions and trends (e.g. miniaturization, modularisation) and their impact on reparability of products
  • Life cycle considerations of repairable products and repair processes

View Presentation Slides >

References:

Bracquené, E., Brusselaers, J., Yoko, D., Peeters, J., De Schepper, K., Duflou, J., Dewulf, D., (2018). Repairability criteria for energy related products. Benelux.

http://www.benelux.int/files/7915/2896/0920/FINAL_Report_Benelux.pdf

EPA. (2019). Too Good To Waste Discussion paper on a circular economy approach for NSW. NSW Environment Protection Authority.

https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/publications/recyclereuse/18p1061-too-good-to-waste-circular-economy-discussion-paper

Park, M. (2019). Closed for repair: design affordances for product disassembly. PLATE confernce proceedings (forcoming).Deeper read

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/empire-of-things-how-we-became-a-world-of-consumers-from-the-fifteenth-century-to-the-twenty-first-a6825501.html