Repair, reuse and remanufacture

25th August 2015 Posted by

Repair, reuse and remanufacturing continue to get a raw deal from policymakers. A panel discussion on current performance and future challenges in the UK held at the recent CIWM’s conference Resourcing the Future 2015 highlighted this fact in contrast to the undoubted success the UK has enjoyed in raising recycling rates. Yet the European Union household waste target of 50 per cent by 2020 is for both recycling and reuse.

Why is this so when, as the report Triple Win: The Social, Economic and Environmental Case for Remanufacturing shows, the potential for jobs and growth in the sector is so great? 

The reasons are difficult to pin down. As consumers we are clearly in the front line when taking a decision as to whether to discard or to donate an unwanted item for reuse. Our ongoing project with the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce explored some of the barriers to reuse by hosting a Design Residency on one of Surrey County Council’s Community Recycling Centres.

This provided a unique opportunity to get product designers, waste operators and third sector reuse organisations to work together. The project will report on its findings at the beginning of September.

Beyond on-the-ground operational issues and public attitudes to reuse, governments have a role to play in facilitating product designs that are conducive to dismantling, repair and remanufacture. In the circular economy space Scotland has again stolen a march on England by launching the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture at the University of Strathclyde, one of only four such centres worldwide. The funding of £1.3 million over three years coupled with pledges for a further £0.8 million from industry bodes well for the sector in Scotland.

In contrast, England’s Centre for Remanufacturing languishes after funding from Government was terminated. Smarter product design is crucial if we are to recover more value from the items we discard. But this requires bringing together actors along the entire value chain, so that the implications of product management further down the chain can be factored into decisions taken at the design stage.

England is missing out on a significant opportunity to maximise the potential for our sector to provide jobs and economic growth.

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