With my background in Environmental Science and Engineering, I was quite surprised when I joined SBFI Group over 6 years ago, how advanced they were regarding this subject. But what exactly do I mean by this? From this summer, if we ever see it, new UK rules covering many household electrical items will make manufacturers ensure spare parts are available, extending the lifespan of products by up to 10 years. Back in 2015 when I joined SBFI they had already achieved the environmental standard BS EN ISO 14001 some 7 years earlier. Another point I quickly realised was that the lifespan of SBFI products was considerable, however, neither SBFI nor I considered this as an environmental feature, it was just the “quality product” ethos it had worked to for many decades.
You can read about the new rules here:
Hopefully, this is good news for the environment, if the replacement components can be easily sourced at an affordable price. I recently found replacing a broken screen on my smartphone would cost me a huge percentage of the price of a new phone. I hope the new legislation will be taken in the spirit of the law and not as an opportunity to increase prices. Only simple& safe parts will be available to consumers to buy & replace, however if using a third-party specialist repairer their competency should be considered.
Another perspective may be to make the manufacturer take the old equipment in part exchange for factory refurbishment or strip it down for recycling. In this case, a new industry can be created of guaranteed second-hand goods/components to consumers at a relatively cheap price. The duty of recycling could be placed on the manufacturers, and nothing should go to landfill; every component will be either reused or properly recycled.
Unfortunately, most companies are still working on
Products are thrown away far too quickly!
Of course, making spare parts available should have a positive effect on the environment, however, far greater impact is achieved by designing for longevity; products should be designed to last if we are to “save the planet”!
Back to SBFI and my first few months of employment; I soon realised that our quality was controlled in-house with prototyping and test fits before delivery, as such, site problems are very rare, and for this reason, in most cases, SBFI offers 10 years warranty. I was also quite surprised that desks almost 20 years old were still being supported regarding spares, but in most cases, they were used for upgrades not replacement of broken parts. SBFI products are designed to last!
I continue to work with our R&D teams to make sure many environmental aspects are considered in the design phase.
Good designs are optimised for:
The SBFI Group are dedicated to improving the environmental, quality and H&S performance from conceptual design through to end-of-life disposal with our experienced and ambitious design team. Environmentally friendly substances and materials are used in the product with the intention of eventually being returned for technical and biological recycling.
So, the new legislations will help the environment, however greater impact will be achieved by designing for longevity and recycling at end of use, and that is SBFI mission – we should act like we have only borrowed the material, not used it, and eventually, it will come back for recycling!