Ministers are set to introduce rules for electrical products to tackle ‘planned obsolescence’ – a short lifespan deliberately built into an appliance by manufacturers, leading to “unnecessary and costly” replacements for the consumer.
The move is expected to extend the lifespan of products such as fridges, washing machines and televisions by up to 10 years.
Business and energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Our plans to tighten product standards will ensure more of our electrical goods can be fixed rather than thrown on the scrap heap, putting more money back in the pockets of consumers whilst protecting the environment.”
The UK generates around 1.5 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) every year, the government says.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) told letsrecycle.com in February that measures put in place to increase the lifespan of electrical products could have an impact on the long-term targets set for the collection of WEEE (see letsrecycle.com story).
The move has been welcomed by the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), MP for Ludlow Philip Dunne. The EAC recently conducted an inquiry into electronic waste and the circular economy, culminating in the publication of a report on 26 November 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story).
Mr Dunne said: “Cracking down on planned obsolescence in electrical items is key to tackling the e-waste tsunami, and I applaud the government for taking this step. As our committee highlighted during our recent e-waste inquiry, 155,000 tonnes of e-waste is chucked away in household bins by Brits every year – with no hope of salvaging the item or the precious metals they may contain. Often these metals are integral for Net Zero Britain: crucial for wind turbines, electric vehicles and solar panels.
“There should be no contest: consumers should have every right to fix items they own. Making spare parts available is the first step in creating a circular economy where we use, reuse and recycle products. We must stop using and disposing quite so much: we must take action if we are to protect the environment for generations to come.”
The changes will also set energy-efficiency standards for electrical products, which the government estimates will save consumers an average of £75 a year on energy bills. It is believed the move will cut eight mega tonnes of carbon emissions in 2021 by reducing the amount of energy products consume over their lifetime.
Mr Kwarteng said: “Going forward, our upcoming energy efficiency framework will push electrical products to use even less energy and material resources, saving people money on their bills and reducing carbon emissions as we work to reach net zero by 2050.”
And, from 1 March, new energy labels were introduced to simplify the way energy efficiency is displayed, on a new scale from A-G. The government says that previously most appliances were classified A+, A++ or A+++. It hopes the new labels will improve the old system by raising the bar for each class, meaning very few appliances will now be classified A.