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MPs identify £5.6bn remanufacturing opportunity

A cross-party parliamentary group has indicated the remanufacturing sector in the UK could be worth as much as £5.6bn and suggested an overhaul of waste and product regulations to ease its development.

In a report titled ‘Remanufacturing. Towards a Resource Efficient Economy’ (file right), the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) suggested the value of remanufacturing activity in the country could more than double a current estimated value of £2.4bn.

The sector could also make a significant contribution to the fight against climate change, as it could save as much as 800,000 tonnes of CO² emissions every year, it was claimed.

Caroline Spelman

Caroline Spelman

“Remanufacturing is a global industry in which the UK is currently lagging behind,” APRSG co-chair Caroline Spelman MP told MRW.

“The United States is the largest remanufacturer in the world, with a remanufacturing sector valued at $43bn (£26bn), employing 180,000 people. Looking at these figures, the opportunity is clearly here for the UK to make more of its remanufacturing sector and become a global leader in this field.”

To do so, products should be designed with the “circular economy in mind”, the group recommended, and the Government should put forward supportive waste and product legislation.

It said the current ‘Guidance on the Legal Definition of Waste’ should be amended so that end-of-life products intended for remanufacturing are not subjected to waste regulations.

The report was backed by Viridor public affairs manager Martin Grey, who said there was a ‘significant role’ for Government.

He added: “The expansion of remanufacturing will be driven by private innovation, but we also need a new industrial policy for Britain.”

He said the Government should support “strategic alliances” between producers and recyclers, such as the EcoPlastics and Coca Cola Enterprises joint venture, in which Viridor also has a stake as bottle supplier.

He stressed the importance of increasing education on remanufacturing. “Business and consumers understand recycling, but I don’t guess they understand entirely remanufacturing,” he said.

The APSRG also recommended that the Government extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to force designers to disclose the components of a product upon request from a remanufacturer.

The group also suggested that shifting the responsibility for faulty items from retailers to manufacturers by amending the Sale of Goods Act would encourage the production of longer-lasting and easy to remanufacture products.

Tax breaks for remanufacturers would promote the uptake of remanufacturing in the UK, the APSRG added.

To co-ordinate policy initiatives on remanufacturing, the Government should create a cross-departmental committee, led by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and supported by Defra.

MPs identified goods with certain characteristics (see box below) as having the highest remanufacturing potential. The Government should set up a Centre of Excellence for those products, they said, so to encourage knowledge transfer between the academic, scientific and business communities.

“Remanufacturing is not a one-size fits all approach and is sometimes not the best approach either environmentally or economically,” said Spelman.

“However, for those product types that fit the criteria for remanufacturing, education is key to its successful uptake.”

Paul Levett, industry non-executive director

Paul Levett

“I totally support the objectives of the report. But in terms of delivery, it will depend on the pace Government reforms policies and enforce existing policies.”

“There are two opportunities for waste companies to assist on the expansion of remanufacturing. One is in household recycling sites, where they could have separate areas or separate containers for furniture or other equipment [for remanufacturing]. The second one is providing waste services directly to manufacturers.”

Remanufacturing definition

As opposed to recycling, reuse, repairing or refurbishing, remanufacturing is: “A series of manufacturing steps acting on an end-of-life part or product in order to return it to like-new or better performance, with warranty to match.”

Criteria for successful remanufacturing:

  • The product has a high value
  • The technology in question does not change quickly
  • Fashion or trends in the product do not change quickly
  • The product is durable
  • The product is easy to disassemble
  • The product is leased or delivered as a service instead of hardware. Where this occurs there are shared motives for product durability, longevity and performance

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