A new report from the Green Alliance suggests that incentivizing product repair and renewal could create up to 450,000 skilled jobs as well as reduce waste, carbon emissions and pollution. What's not to like?
The report suggests that the repair and renewal of products, as well as the effective recycling of many materials (as opposed to dumping them in developing countries) could not only result in significant numbers of skilled jobs, but also support the concept of the circular economy, where less is wasted and energy use is minimised.
It could also, with appropriate government backing, lead to repair shops becoming a commons site on our beleagured high streets, rather than a fringe activity. Policies like zero rating the VAT on repairs and similar incentives could see the development of commercial repair shops that would become the go-to place to take your struggling microwave, rather than just drop it at the tip.
Product designers have known about the issues surrounding repair and renewal for a long time, and can provide encouragement to our clients to avoid assembly details that cannot be undone and co-moulded materials that cannot be recycled. In most cases, any commercial penalties - in terms of assembly time or part cost - are very minor, but the potential benefits to the economy and the environment are significant.
If all this sounds unrealistic, consider the changes that have been achieved in other areas, like packaging reduction, fair trade and the banning of CFC's, amongst other things. The assumption that industrial norms cannot be challenged by changes in public attitudes has been proved wrong many times in recent years, and it is not too hard to envisage the concept of repair and renewal going mainstream.
Who knows, maybe Timpsons will start fixing laptops as well as heeling shoes...