Calls to consider new incentives and VAT reductions for repair activities and to encourage take-up of innovative digital technologies that can support repair, are among the recommendations to Government in a new report from techUK.
Reuse, Repair, Remanufacture in the ICT Sector comes as the Government develops its Resources and Waste Strategy, a commitment outlined early this year in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. In the Plan, Government signalled its interest in products that last longer and have enhanced resource productivity.
techUK’s report takes stock of the current landscape for ICT manufacturers. It focuses on efforts by the sector to make products more durable and to support reuse and repair activities. It also looks at remanufacturing products, where products are taken back from customers and are returned to as-good-as-new condition. In doing so, the report also sets out a number of policy recommendations to further support this activity.
“While there are still issues to address in the sector, it is notable that high-level manufacturing strategies are starting to align with circular economy goals and that companies are not only innovating to develop solutions to tackle barriers to repair but also exploring how they can maximise value at the end of life.”
Among the recommendations, the report asks Government to:
- Place safety and quality at the heart of our flourishing professional repair sector, recognising increasing concerns about the availability of sub-standard and counterfeit spare parts and other elements used in combination with products that put consumers at risk.
- Assess the case for introducing a VAT reduction on repair activities, as has recently been introduced in Sweden. Frequently, some of the costs associated with repair relate to the labour not spare parts. It may be that a reduced cost of labour could support greater levels of out-of-warranty repairs.
- Provide consistent and clear advice to the public on the deletion of data on devices to encourage more reuse, repair and remanufacturing of devices, by avoiding the hoarding of electronics because of data security fears.
- Research the use of 3D printing to generate simple spare parts. With some businesses already using this technology to generate spare parts for themselves, now is the time to explore how we might 3D print simple spare parts for consumer markets in the future.
The report also highlights the potential of new technologies, such as the Internet of Things, machine learning and 3D printing to prolong the life of products. The Government’s recent review of industrial digitalisation, Made Smarter, estimated that digital technologies have the potential to reduce resource costs by £10bn. An example can be found in predictive maintenance, powered by artificial intelligence, which can anticipate when a product is going to fail so the user can repair it in advance.
Susanne Baker, Head of Environment and Compliance at techUK, said: “We no longer operate in a market where electronic devices are used and disposed of in a short period of time. With the market for reused smartphones outperforming markets for new phones, it is clear that strategies to support reuse must be developed. For example, using cloud technology to free up memory and redesigning phones to avoid common sources of failures is working.
“While there are still issues to address in the sector, it is notable that high-level manufacturing strategies are starting to align with circular economy goals and that companies are not only innovating to develop solutions to tackle barriers to repair but also exploring how they can maximise value at the end of life.
“We urge the Government to harness this appetite for innovation, by supporting and trialling novel approaches, supporting the deployment of proven solutions and by thinking about how to make professional repair as cost effective as possible.”