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Repairing products creates more waste, says Sony

Repairing electrical items might be worse for the environment than buying new ones according to a Sony manager.

Electrical goods that are repaired and re-used will not improve the energy efficiency of an electrical product, according to Sony senior manager of environment Peter Evans.

Evans said that the overall efficiency of products will never improve if we just repair products. He told MRW: If we continue to re-use products we will not improve the efficiency of it. For instance, if you take the walkman, if we continued to use that today we would have to buy cassettes and buy two batteries. Moving on two generations we now use less materials and energy. We have moved onto the CD player onto MP3 players, which are smaller than walkmans and use lighter materials.

Evans argued that the transformation in technology from walkman to MP3 players has led to a decrease of waste from batteries, cassettes and CDs and led products to be more energy efficient.

If you just keep on repairing products you do not actually get more sustainable products. I think we need to look at the issue holistically. We should not just look on the waste issue individually or the energy efficiency debate individually as this will not solve the problem, added Evans.
Centre for Remanufacturing & Reuse head of remanufacturing David Parker said that the debate over electronics and waste goes wider and questions whether people are keeping one walkman or buying 10 MP3 players.

He also said that electrical products should be designed for as long as necessary and made easier to recycle. Perhaps some people are sad at the thought of losing well-loved gadgets so why cant we design them so that they can be upgraded? Think of your iPod, wouldnt you rather that it was improved rather than trashed?

Parker concluded and said that society needed to consider the reuse of each end of life product on its own merits.

For every item, its a trade-off of the performance of new products against the potential material and energy savings of reusing and upgrading an older model. For some its a sensible option, but for others, lets design to minimise the end of life impacts through recycling, not least because the complex products were throwing away contain increasingly scarce rare metals. "Thats where the next crunch will be.

Image: Sony walkman products

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