How often have you replaced your TV, computer, mobile phone, vacuum cleaner, washing machine and other equipment in the last 10 years? Throwing stuff away is not good for the environment, available resources or your wallet.
The incentive to keep equipment longer, or pass it on/sell it to someone else, would be greatly increased if you knew how much useful life it still had left. Specifying a lifespan would also create competition between manufacturers to make products last longer.
Well there’s currently a move underway in Europe to make it mandatory for manufacturers to provide an estimate of of the lifespan of electric and electronic devices.
Under the European Citizens’ Initiative a request must be presented to the European Commission by a committee of at least seven citizens from at least seven member states. As soon as the request is accepted an online petition is opened across Europe with the aim of collecting one million signatures in one year.
If that target is met then the organisers have the right to meet the Commission to explain their initiative in detail and also present it at a public hearing in the European Parliament. Within three months the Commission must formally announce what action, if any, it will take and explain its reasons.
The process has already started for the proposal for manufacturers to specify a product lifespan. Started in Belgium, the organisers are looking for people willing to help and are garnering support for the initiative. There’s more information, and the opportunity to show your support, here.
Review: Well I’m a EU citizen and I didn’t know about the Citizens’ Initiative.
I fully support the aims of this initiative. For a really sustainable future we have to cut back on the products we use. ‘Reduce’ is the first law of equipment disposal, i.e. don’t use so much in the first place. A law based on this initiative should help us all use less electronic stuff.
Framing the legislation is not going to be easy, though. If a product comes with a specified lifespan then that will be the consumer expectation. What happens if it doesn’t last that long? Maybe manufacturers will need to guarantee economical repair for early failure. But if specifying a lifespan comes with other obligations, the manufacturers are simply going to specify a short lifespan. But then there’s the competition element …
Clearly the legislation will need some thinking through and will no doubt hit strong objections from manufacturers, but then the EU has already introduced environmental laws that would not have seemed possible a few years ago.
Anyway, go to the website and support the initiative. There’s a fully translated version here, but I think you have to go to the original to sign up.