Products with Integrated Repair and Disposal Instructions
Dr. Heiko H. Stutzke
March, 2020 (Update November, 2020)
Most of the products we use today have to meet a variety of requirements: They are supposed to do what they were made for, for a long time and reliably, and they should be comfortable and compact as well, look chic, and send a message before a problem occurs. They should be connected to the (Wi-Fi) network and the Internet, be always up-to-date, and communicate with each other. And we expect them to operate largely independently in production and soon also on the road.
To enable all these functions, goods and products contain a variety of different materials. These include metals, rare earths, and plastics. They are often combined in such a way that a targeted replacement of individual parts or a dismantling is difficult - or impossible altogether. Of course, this is not a real challenge before they are in need of repair or have reached the end of their lifespan. But at this point, the question arises as to how they can be made operational again – or how recycling can be achieved without burning valuable substances or letting them end up in landfill. The aim must be to use the product for as long as possible and then to return the materials contained into the material cycle.
So, what if each product were basically optimized not only for its function, but also for repairs and later subsequent disposal? Our concept for "products with integrated repair and disposal instructions" makes this possible:
This sounds as simple as it makes sense, but it is undoubtedly a complex matter. For example, a legal basis is needed that regulates all the activities and makes labelling mandatory for all producers. Copyrights and other rights must be protected. And there is certainly a lot more to plan for. But we can start as simple as possible and later extend the new system.
There is one thing we can certainly achieve with this concept: We are one step closer to a real circular economy, products live longer, and the waste management industry is becoming an even stronger supplier of raw materials than before.
About the Author
Dr. Heiko H. Stutzke is a graduate economist and managing partner of Strategiebüro Nord (Strategy Office North) in Germany.
Strategiebüro Nord works for companies and organizations in the private and public sector, for founders and for companies at the beginning of their development.
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