Germany to introduce "repairability index" to boost sustainability
As consumer waste continues to rise, conversations across Europe have turned to how companies can be encouraged to repair their products, rather than simply asking consumers to replace them. Consumer Protection Minister Steffi Lemke has now weighed in on the debate, calling for Germany to introduce a nationwide repairability index.
A French repairability index already exists
Lemke argues that with a repairability index, consumers would be better informed about the life expectancy of their purchases and would better understand their contribution to the country’s consumer waste. "With the right to repairs, we will take an important step away from the throwaway society," the minister said to dpa. "It makes sense to have a repairability index that shows how easy it is to repair a product."
The idea of a repairability index is not a new one; in fact one is already in existence in neighbouring France. At the beginning of 2021, the index was implemented to allow consumers to see how difficult or easy it is to repair smartphones, laptops, televisions, lawn mowers or other electrical devices. The criteria for the index included how easy it was to obtain spare parts for certain devices, and how easily the device could be taken apart and put back together.
Minister Lemke wants to take the initiative one step further, to pressure companies to build certain devices, like smartphones and tablets, in "such a way that their battery and individual parts - as far as technically feasible - can be easily removed and replaced."
E-waste is a growing problem for the EU
The debate comes against a backdrop of growing concern around E-waste in Europe as a whole. The European Union has been pushing for the creation of a consumer “right to repair”, though there are many firms who strongly oppose the idea.
Many businesses that deal with making components for electrical devices are concerned that they would have to significantly increase their output so as to meet client demand, and to feed into a new market demanding spare parts for repair shops. According to Bernhard Rohleder, the CEO of Germany’s Bitkom digital association, it would be disruptive for many businesses "to produce all spare parts on stockpile."
Despite objections from firms, many people still believe that the issue needs to be addressed. Germany has missed the European Waste of Electrical and Electronic collection target of 65 percent of old electrical equipment in recent years, with 2019’s rate being only 44 percent.