Despite growing awareness about the need to shift to more sustainable patterns of consumption, waste from consumer goods in North-West Europe remains high. This is particularly so for electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), of which 6,065,741 tonnes are put on the market each year (Eurostat 2016: Benelux, UK, FR, DE).
Despite nearing market saturation, demand for EEE remains high, in part because product lifespans are shortening, resulting in products being discarded and replaced more quickly. It is unsurprising, then, that waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the EU, growing at 3-5% per year.
There is an urgent need to stop this accumulation of waste and decrease consumption of electronics. Our project proposes to do so by
stimulating citizen-driven repair. From a resource-efficiency perspective, repair is better than recycling, because recycling often still requires a significant amount of new materials and energy to manufacture new products, whereas repair does not. Repair thus has the potential to be a powerful lever in the transition to a circular economy, in which products are designed for repair and recycling.
NWE is home to many citizen initiatives that focus on repair. The founding members of the Open Repair Alliance (Repair Café International, Restart, Anstiftung) are all based in the region of North-West Europe, and represent a community of 1500+ repair clubs.
Yet, the impact of citizen repair initiatives is still limited. They are dispersed and lack critical mass. Although each repair event helps to avoid on average 60 kg of waste, approximately 40% of the failed products brought to a repair event are not repaired, often due to missing information or a lack of spare parts.
Our project aims to support and scale up citizen-driven repair by developing a digital infrastructure to facilitate repair. The tools will lift some of the key barriers to repair, such as a lack of repair solutions or a lack of access to spare-parts, and guide more citizens towards more repair. The project aims to harness the power of the emerging citizen repair movement, and more fully realise its potential to reduce waste and help achieve a circular economy.