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Consumer perspectives on product lifetimes: a national study of lifetime satisfaction and purchasing factors


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The extension of product lifetimes of consumer goods has the potential to encourage sustainable consumption, reduce carbon emissions and facilitate a transition to a circular economy. However, current understandings of consumer perspectives on product lifetimes are limited. This paper presents the findings of the first national study of consumer satisfaction with product lifetimes across an exhaustive range of consumer durables. The research was undertaken in the United Kingdom where consumer satisfaction and purchasing factors were studied across eighteen product categories. These product categories were devised from academic and market research undertaken at Nottingham Trent University. In total, 2,207 participants completed the survey and the sample profile was similar to the United Kingdom’s population with respect to age and gender. The results indicate that consumers appear generally satisfied with the lifetimes of their products and suggest that efforts to extend product lifetimes should focus on developing business and policy options. However, participants also emphasised that longevity, reliability and guarantee length were important factors in their purchasing decisions. Consumer interest in these factors could indicate that lifetime labelling and the promotion of longer guarantees by manufacturers and retailers may offer pathways to reduce energy and material consumption associated with short-lived products, facilitating movement towards a low carbon circular economy.
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144 | PLATE 2017 Conference Proceedings
Product Lifetimes And e Environment
2017 - Conference Proceedings
C. Bakker and R. Mugge (Eds.)
© 2017. Del University of Technology and
IOS Press. All rights reserved. is article is
published online with Open Access by IOS
Press and distributed under the terms of
the Creative Commons Attribution Non-
Commercial License.
DOI: 10.3233/978-1-61499-820-4-144
PLATE conference
Delft University of Technology
8-10 November 2017
identity and success (Cox et al., 2013; Wieser, Tröger, &
Hübner, 2015).
Research into consumer satisfaction and expectations of
product lifetimes is an emerging eld of enquiry. While
product categories that include electrical and electronic
equipment (EEE) (CTA, 2014; Cooper, 2004; Echegaray,
2016; Knight et al., 2013; Oguchi et al., 2016; Tasaki,
Terazono, & Moriguchi, 2004; Wilhelm, Yankov, & Magee,
2011) and clothing (Langley, Durkacz, & Tanase, 2013a,
2013b) have been extensively studied, other products,
such as carpets and boilers, have rarely been evaluated
(Cox et al., 2013; Wieser et al., 2015).
is paper reports the ndings of the rst nationwide
survey of consumer satisfaction with current product
lifetimes, which was undertaken across eighteen product
categories and conducted in the UK in February 2017. e
paper outlines the formulation of the product categories,
the design of the consumer survey and describes the
data analysis undertaken. e research ndings are
summarised, with the degree of consumer satisfaction
with product lifetimes and the importance of reliability
and longevity in comparison to other purchasing factors
are examined. Finally, the role of consumers, businesses
and government in facilitating the choice of longer-lasting
Materially-rich lifestyles across the world exert ever-
increasing demands on the planet (Trentmann, 2016).
Global improvements in standards of living are driving
spiralling consumer demand for products (Wilk, 1998).
In the United Kingdom (UK), the design, production,
distribution, use and disposal of these products account
for a signicant proportion of energy and material
demand (Norman et al., 2016; Salvia et al., 2016). ese
products embody carbon (Allwood & Cullen, 2012), and
their decreasing lifetimes characterised by the ‘throwaway
society’ (Cooper, 2004, 2010b), represents a signicant
challenge to meeting carbon reduction targets (IPCC,
2014) and attaining a circular economy (Montalvo, Peck,
& Rietveld, 2016).
Encouraging consumers to purchase longer-lasting
products could abate the “churn” (Cox, Grith, Giorgi, &
King, 2013, 27) of consumer goods, and would minimise
environmental impacts (ERM, 2011). Previous research
has asserted that consumers are interested in how long
products last (ERM, 2011; Knight, King, Herren, & Cox,
2013). However, consumers have also shown limited
concern for the environmental impacts of discarded
products (Cox et al., 2013), while continually expecting
innovation and psychologically linking products to their
Circular economy
Consumer goods
Lifespan labelling
Product lifetimes
rowaway society
e extension of product lifetimes of consumer goods has the potential to encourage sustainable
consumption, reduce carbon emissions and facilitate a transition to a circular economy.
However, current understandings of consumer perspectives on product lifetimes are limited.
is paper presents the ndings of the rst national study of consumer satisfaction with product
lifetimes across an exhaustive range of consumer durables. e research was undertaken in
the United Kingdom where consumer satisfaction and purchasing factors were studied across
eighteen product categories. ese product categories were devised from academic and market
research undertaken at Nottingham Trent University. In total, 2,207 participants completed the
survey and the sample prole was similar to the United Kingdoms population with respect to
age and gender. e results indicate that consumers appear generally satised with the lifetimes
of their products and suggest that eorts to extend product lifetimes should focus on developing
business and policy options. However, participants also emphasised that longevity, reliability
and guarantee length were important factors in their purchasing decisions. Consumer interest
in these factors could indicate that lifetime labelling and the promotion of longer guarantees
by manufacturers and retailers may oer pathways to reduce energy and material consumption
associated with short-lived products, facilitating movement towards a low carbon circular
Gnanapragasam A.(a), Cooper T.(a), Cole C.(a) and Oguchi M.(b)
a) Product Design, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, United Kingdom
b) National Institute for Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Japan
PLATE 2017 Conference Proceedings | 145
Gnanapragasam A. et al. / PLATE (2017) 144-148
Likert items were used to assess consumer satisfaction
with product lifetimes. A Likert scale (ranging from
‘very dissatised’ to ‘very satised’) was utilised to assess
consumer lifetime satisfaction with the eighteen product
categories. As each of the product categories encompassed
a range of products, it was not possible for participants
to estimate lifetime expectations in years. A Likert-type
scale (ranging from ‘not at all important’ to ‘extremely
important’) was used to gauge the level of importance that
participants assigned to the following purchasing factors:
Appearance, brand, guarantee length, longevity, price and
reliability. e importance of reliability as a purchasing
factor was studied for bicycles, cars, electronic goods,
jewellery, clocks and watches, large kitchen appliances,
power tools for the home and garden, small household
appliances, and space heating and cooling products
because, unlike other categories, these products contain
complex electrical, electronic or mechanical parts.
Sampling strategy
As suggested by Bryman (2008) and Robson (2011),
extensive pilot testing was undertaken with participants
from dierent backgrounds to ensure the questionnaire
was readily understood. Participant recruitment was
conducted by a market research company (JRA Research)
who recruited from an opt-in consumer panel to meet age
and gender quotas derived from the UK population. e
sample characteristics deviated from the UK population
by no more than 3.58% for gender and 5.35% for age
(see Tables 2 and 3 in the appendix). e data presented
in this paper is unweighted, as with the exception of
one characteristic (participants aged 18-24), the sample
characteristics remained within 5% of the UK population,
which is an acceptable standard in the discipline of market
research (Sarstedt & Mooi, 2011). In addition, weighting
has not been implemented by recent studies into consumer
expectations of product lifetimes (Hennies & Stamminger,
2016; Wieser et al., 2015).
products is examined, and the contribution they can make
to reducing the environmental impacts of products and
achieving a circular economy is explored.
Product categories
An evaluation of the United Nations’ Statistics Divisions
(UNSD, 1999) Classication of Individual Consumption
According to Purpose (COICOP) and Mintel Academic
market research database (e.g. Carroll, 2017) identied
over 400 products that could be classied as durable
goods. Durable goods are dened as products “that may
be used repeatedly or continuously over a period of
more than a year” (UN, EC, OECD, IMF & World Bank,
2009, p. 184). Owing to time and cost constraints, it was
not considered feasible to conduct a national survey
of consumer satisfaction with product lifetimes at the
product level. Consequently, a product categorisation
scheme was developed using COICOP, Mintel reports
and previous consumer studies of product lifetimes (e.g.
Cooper, 2004; Cox et al., 2013; Wieser et al., 2015) (see
Gnanapragasam, Oguchi, Cole, & Cooper, 2017, this
volume). ese eighteen product categories were designed
to be representative of the entire range of consumer
durables, thus achieving a comprehensive consumer
survey (Dillman, Smyth, & Christian, 2014).
Consumer survey
An online survey was designed to assess consumer
satisfaction with product lifetimes across these eighteen
categories. e questionnaire included items on
purchasing factors and satisfaction with product lifetimes
(e.g. Knight et al., 2013) (see Figure 2 in the appendix).
In addition, demographic information, such as gender
and age, was also collected. Each participant answered
questions on up to nine of the eighteen product categories
to minimise potential survey fatigue and non-response
(Dillman et al., 2014).
Figure 1. Consumer satisfaction with product categories.
146 | PLATE 2017 Conference Proceedings
Gnanapragasam A. et al. / PLATE (2017) 144-148
of respondents indicating that they were ‘dissatised’
was small household appliances (5%). In contrast, the
lowest proportion of respondents indicated that they were
‘dissatised’ with both power tools and small tools (1%).
Very few respondents stated they were ‘very dissatised’
with product lifetimes: 2% recorded that they were ‘very
dissatised’ with the lifetimes of footwear, large kitchen
appliances, cars and sports equipment. Across all other
product categories, only 1% of respondents were ‘very
Purchasing factors
e median values for purchasing factors were calculated
across the eighteen product categories to determine their
relative importance (Table 1). e results illustrate that
reliability was an ‘extremely important’ purchasing factor
in the categories in which it was studied. Longevity was
‘extremely important’ for furniture, oor coverings,
large kitchen appliances, power tools, cars, electronic
goods, and space heating and cooling products. For the
remaining eleven categories, longevity was considered
to be ‘very important’. Price was identied as ‘very
important’ for all product categories apart from cars, for
which it was ‘extremely important’. Guarantee length was
considered ‘very important’ for eleven product categories
and ‘moderately important’ for seven product categories.
Brand was identied as ‘moderately important’ for all
categories with the exception of cars and electronic goods,
for which it was ‘very important’. Finally, the results for
appearance show the most variability across the product
categories. For clothing, furniture, oor coverings,
household textiles, kitchenware and jewellery, it was
identied as ‘extremely important’. For the remaining
twelve product categories, appearance was considered
‘very important’ for six and ‘moderately important’ for the
other six.
Study coverage
is study provides the rst example of a national survey
of consumer satisfaction with product lifetimes across
Data analysis
e data for levels of satisfaction and purchasing factors
were prepared for analysis by excluding responses where
participants had stated that they could not answer the
question. e ndings were tabulated a compound
percentage bar chart was produced to facilitate visual
comparison of consumer satisfaction data across the
eighteen product categories. Purchasing factors were
assigned a numerical value (i.e. from 1 for ‘not at all
important’ to 5 for ‘extremely important’) and the median
scores were calculated.
Study coverage
In total, 2,207 participants completed the consumer
survey. Response rates for each product category ranged
between 635 (for musical instruments) to 1,212 (for space
heating and cooling products).
Consumer satisfaction
Figure 1 depicts levels of satisfaction with lifetimes across
eighteen product categories. Overall, the majority of
the respondents in this study indicated that they were
satised with the lifetimes of their durable goods. When
‘very satised’ and ‘satised’ were aggregated, all product
categories illustrated high satisfaction levels, ranging from
77% satisfaction for toys and games to 85% satisfaction
for furniture. In contrast, only a small proportion of
respondents indicated that they were ‘dissatised’ or ‘very
dissatised’ with product lifetimes. Aggregating these
responses, participants who reported dissatisfaction with
product lifetimes ranged from 2% for small tools and
ttings to 6% for both footwear and small household
e product category with the highest proportion of
respondents who were ‘very satised’ was cars (37%),
followed by musical instruments (34%). In contrast, the
product category which showed the lowest proportion
of respondents who were ‘very satised’ was clothing
(21%). e product category with the highest proportion
Appearance Brand   Price 
Bicycles Very Moderately Very Very Very Extremely
Cars Very Very Very Extremely Extremely Extremely
Clothing Extremely Moderately Moderately Very Very
Electronic goods Moderately Very Very Extremely Very Extremely
Floor coverings Extremely Moderately Very Extremely Very
Footwear Very Moderately Moderately Very Very
Furniture Extremely Moderately Very Extremely Very
Household textiles Extremely Moderately Moderately Very Very
Jewellery, clocks and watches Extremely Moderately Very Very Very Extremely
Kitchenware Extremely Moderately Moderately Very Very
Large kitchen appliances Very Moderately Very Extremely Very Extremely
Musical instruments Very Moderately Very Very Very
Power tools for the home and garden Moderately Moderately Very Extremely Very Extremely
Small household appliances Moderately Moderately Very Very Very Extremely
 Moderately Moderately Moderately Very Very
Space heating and cooling products Moderately Moderately Very Extremely Very Extremely
Sports equipment Very Moderately Moderately Very Very
Toys and games Moderately Moderately Moderately Very Very
Table 1. Importance of purchasing factors.
PLATE 2017 Conference Proceedings | 147
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product categories (Table 1). Previously, it has been
suggested that product lifetime information should
be clearly communicated to consumers so that they
can make informed purchasing decisions (Cooper &
Christer, 2010; Knight et al., 2013; Montalvo et al., 2016).
Strategies such as lifetime labelling have been positively
received by consumers across a range of products
(SIRCOME, University of South Brittany, & University
of South Bohemia, 2016). Lifetime labelling could
enable consumers to consider information on product
lifetimes into account when making purchasing decisions.
Additionally, consumers considered guarantee length to
be a ‘very important’ purchasing factor for the majority
of product categories. is indicates that the introduction
and eective communication of longer lifetime guarantees
by manufacturers and retailers may entice consumers to
purchase longer-lasting products (Cooper & Christer,
2010; Knight et al., 2013). In summary, both lifetime
labelling and the provision of longer guarantees could
encourage greater uptake of longer-lasting products,
helping to slow and reduce material demand and enact the
circular economy at the product level (Bakker et al., 2014).
is paper reported the ndings of the rst national study
of consumer satisfaction with product lifetimes across the
entire range of consumer durables. e study found that
overall, UK participants appear satised with the lifetimes
of their durable goods. It also revealed that consumers
consider reliability, longevity and guarantee length
to be comparatively important factors when making
purchasing decisions. While it appears that consumers
may be satised with arguably declining product lifetimes
(Gnanapragasam et al., 2017, this volume), the importance
consumers place on longevity, durability and guarantee
length may foster opportunities for the development of
lifetime labelling and the provision of longer guarantees
for durable goods. e ndings of this study indicate
that government, manufacturers and retailers may be
best-positioned to encourage the uptake of longer-lasting
products, reducing consumption (Cooper, 2005), driving
eorts towards a circular economy (Montalvo et al., 2016)
and enabling carbon emissions reduction targets to be met
(Salvia et al., 2016).
is project was nancially supported by the UK’s
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s
Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products
(grant reference EP/N022645/1). e authors would
like to thank Dr Angela Roberts for providing detailed
comments on dras of this paper.
the complete range of durable goods. Responses were
received from 2,207 individuals across the UK and the
sample characteristics broadly match that of the UK
population aged 18 and above (ONS, 2016) (see Tables 2
and 3 in the appendix). e similarity of this sample to the
UK population indicates that this study is representative,
this follows previous research conducted by Skelton and
Allwood (2017) and Wieser et al. (2015). Additionally,
the response rates in each product category for this
research compare favourably to those in recent research
into consumer expectations of product lifetimes (e.g.
Hennies & Stamminger, 2016; Wieser et al., 2015) and
are comparable to those achieved in a recent study of
regretted consumption (Skelton & Allwood, 2017).
Consumer satisfaction
Consumer levels of satisfaction were found to be uniformly
high across the eighteen product categories under
investigation. ese ndings contrast with that of Cooper
and Mayers (2000) in which almost 45% of participants
asserted that most EEE did not last as long as they would
like it to. e ndings of this research were similar to that
of a recent study conducted on EEE in the UK by Knight
et al. (2013) which found the majority of participants to
be mostly satised with how long their products lasted.
is may indicate that there has been a temporal trend
of increasing satisfaction with product lifetimes which
parallels the decline in consumer expectations of product
lifetimes in the UK (Gnanapragasam et al., 2017, this
If most consumers are generally satised with product
lifetimes, as this study would indicate, then future
eorts towards “slowing resource loops” (Bakker, Wang,
Huisman, & den Hollander, 2014, p. 309) and achieving
a circular economy through the proliferation of longer
lasting products should, perhaps, focus on the business
case (e.g. Bocken, Short, Rana, & Evans, 2014), public
policy (Cooper, 2010a; Ervine, 2010) and environmental
arguments (ERM, 2011; Norman et al., 2016), instead
of consumer concern. Additional qualitative research
could serve to deepen our understanding of consumer
satisfaction with current product lifetimes, perhaps
deciphering why today’s consumers are satised with
lifetimes of products even while some are, arguably, in
Purchasing factors
While dissatisfaction with product lifetimes was
not evident, this study found that consumers placed
comparatively greater importance on reliability and
longevity in comparison to the other four purchasing
factors surveyed, including price, across all eighteen
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A. In general, how important are the following when you are buying
[product category]?
a) How the product looks, b) brand, c) How long the product will last, d)
How reliable the product will be, e) Length of guarantee provided, f) price.
1 Not at all important, 2 slightly important, 3 moderately important, 4 ver y
important, 5 extremely important, 6 do not know/ cannot say.
your [product category] lasted?
Figure 2. Survey questions.
#$%& '$%&
Female 51.26 47.68
Male 48.74 52.32
#$%& '$%&
18 – 24 11.45 16.80
25 – 44 33.50 28.84
45 – 64 32.43 36.24
65 – 74 12.35 12.40
75+ 10.27 5.72
... The central rule is that the repair must be done in the presence of the bringer. Most research on other Repair Cafés in Europe and America (Ames and Rosner, 2014;Charter and Keiller, 2016a;Cole et al., 2018;Gnanapragasam et al., 2017;Graziano and Trogal, 2017;Kannengießer, 2018;Pit, 2020) highlights similar modes of operation. To measure the weight of Repair Cafés around the world, let us consider their geography. ...
Several authors have described contemporary purchasing and consumption behavior as part of a “throwaway society.” Broader movements around environmental and consumer issues try to offset this process. Among these movements, Repair Cafés—places where volunteers help people repair their household items for free—are an interesting vantage point to study how a different relationship to objects can be transmitted by practicing repair. By conducting qualitative field observations, semi-structured interviews and quantitative questionnaires in three French Repair Cafés, I show that these organizations, which are intended to be places of learning, aimed at empowering individuals to deal with their household goods by teaching them repair techniques, cannot help but drift toward a logic of service, where audiences play the role of consumers rather than learners. But I argue that this service relationship has the advantage of attracting many individuals who are not familiar with the issue of product durability, and of socializing them, through concrete practice, to a new reflex of repair.
... 4 On average: nine grams copper, 11 grams iron, 250 mg silver, 24 mg gold, nine mg palladium, a gram of rare earth (Praseodymium, Neodymium, Cerio, Lanthanum, Samarium, Terbium, Dysprosium) and other precious metals such as Cadmium, Cobalt and Ruthenium. the user to establish a more lasting bond with goods ( van Hinte 1997;Kostecki 1998;Takada et al., 1999;Lyndhurst, 2011;Gnanapragasam, Cooper, Cole and Oguchi 2017). ...
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We are in a time of deep transformations, led by digital revolutions following one another. Such transformations, that are impacting our daily life, are not just technological, but also social and cultural. As a consequence, trends transversal to different fields are advancing, requiring the design field to be aware, responsive and, above all, predictive. This book proposes an overview of the researches initiated in 2015 in the Design PhD programme of Politecnico di Milano. All of them explore the implications of the ongoing transformations, from the specific perspective of design research. Throughout the book, the cultural, organisational, social, and managerial issues raised by digital technology and its applications, are debated. How and to what extent such issues call for a reframing of design processes, practices and models? This is debated in the first and second part of the book. The third part taps into a growing but still underexplored issue, the ethics and social awareness that comes along in today’s smart and interconnected world.
... While previous work on failure modes and average lifetimes of products were mainly based on surveys among end-users (Bakker et al., 2014b;Cox et al., 2013;Gnanapragasam et al., 2017;Hennies and Stamminger, 2016), we based our analysis on available datasets from a professional repair operator. The independent repair centre was the Austrian Reparatur-und Service-Zentrum (RUSZ), which is based in Vienna and active on the creation of networks of repair operators. ...
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The available literature on average lifetimes and failure modes of household appliances is mainly based on results of surveys conducted among end-users, but very little precise information can be found on specific failure modes and repair rates. The main objective of this study is to provide quantitative data about frequent failures and average service lifetimes of two household appliances, through the analysis of repair services performed by professional repair operators. We based our analysis on available datasets provided by a representative independent repair centre based in Europe, and we focused on the failures most frequently occurring and the potential repair or discard of the appliances. A database of about 11,000 diagnoses on defective washing machines and dishwashers was analysed, and frequent failure modes and repair rates were identified. The analysis was supported by a tailored visualisation of results. Concerning washing machines, recurring failures diagnosed by the repair operator regarded the electronics, shock absorbers and bearings, doors, carbon brushes and pumps. While the highest repair rates (repaired devices over total diagnosed devices with a specific failure mode) were observed for doors, carbon brushes and removal of foreign objects, the lowest rates were observed for bearings, drums and tubs, circulation pumps and electronics. Regarding dishwashers, recurring failures involved pumps, electronics, aquastop and valves, foreign objects and doors. The lowest repair rates, however, were again observed for circulation pumps and electronics. We also observed that the average service lifetime of an appliance not repaired by repair centre operators is 12.6 years for washing machines and 12 years for dishwashers. This work brings important knowledge on lifetimes and failure modes of defective washing machines and dishwashers, concerning in particular weak and critical components, but also age of appliances to be repaired. Based on the exercise on the two appliances, we discuss a possible classification scheme for repair services of household appliances, including both information retrieved by professional repair operators and information retrieved through interviews with end-users.
... Some of this accelerated use of materials can be traced back to product obsolescence and reduced product lifetime (Echegaray, 2016;Wieser, 2016). Even though consumers may be satisfied with the lifetime of their everyday products (Gnanapragasam et al., 2017), several empirical studies suggest that the median lifetimes of consumer products are in decline (Bakker et al., 2014;Huisman et al., 2012;Prakash et al., 2016;Wang et al., 2013;Schridde et al., 2014). However, contrary to these findings, a few authors have argued that the replacement cycles of certain consumer durables may not be decreasing (Wieser, 2017;Oguchi and Daigo, 2017). ...
Reduced product lifespan results in accelerated flow of materials and ultimately more waste. Rapid technology cycles, frequently changing consumer preferences and increasing market competition, provide consumers with an opportunity to use products with more functions and better quality at a cheaper price. Consequently, these products quickly become technologically, psychologically, or economically obsolete even before the actual end of their physical life/economic value resulting in shorter product life cycles. These products are often disposed as landfill. In this context, it can be argued that reduced product lifespan has a significant impact toward, both the environment and the economy. To address this issue, our study investigates the concept of upgradability while exploring its potential as a product lifetime extension strategy. Several research papers regarding product upgradability have been published in the past in a variety of settings/domains. However, the collective contributions of these papers have yet to be summarized in order to provide a platform of knowledge for furthering the research on upgradability. To contribute to the body of knowledge, this article aims to identify, interpret, and summarize the current literature available on product upgradability. First results indicate growing interest and promising potential of upgradability as a product lifetime extension strategy, especially given the increasing importance of a product's middle of life phase in the context of Product-Service Systems (PSS). Additionally, upgradability facilitates the implementation of the circular economy, the dissemination of PSS, as well as remanufacturing approaches. However, our findings show that research on upgradable PSS is still dominated by theoretical work and more empirical research is necessary to further establish this concept. In terms of future work, there is a clear need to develop upgradeable PSS-specific design methodologies as well as associated sustainable business models.
... As a result, several have argued that making phones easier to 97 repair and update, thereby slowing their technical obsolescence, would increase their potential for 98 reuse and extend their use phase (Wilhelm et al. 2011;van Nes and Cramer 2005;Benton et al. 99 2015). 100 Yet, despite consumers' proclaimed interest in repairability (Wilhelm et al. 2011;Wieser et al. 101 2015; Cooper 2016), evidence suggests that they might be content with product lifespans 102 (Gnanapragasam 2017), and not genuinely interested in fixing their devices. For example, Jacoby 103 et al. (1977) showed that consumers use minor malfunctions or physical imperfections as 104 justification for replacing working products. ...
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Reuse via secondhand markets can extend the use phase of products, thereby reducing environmental impacts. Analyzing 500,000 listings of used Apple and Samsung smartphones sold in 2015 and 2016 via eBay, we examine which product properties affect how long smartphones retain market value and facilitate market‐based reuse. Our results suggest that although repairability and large memory size are typically thought to be “life extending,” in practice they have limited impact on the current economic life span of smartphones and their market‐based reuse. In contrast, we show that brand, an intangible product property, can extend smartphones’ economic life span by 12.5 months. Because longer economic life spans imply extended use phases and longer life spans overall, these results illustrate the potential of harnessing the intangible properties of products to promote sustainable consumption.
As utilized technical products, durable wood furniture plays an important role in a future circular economy (CE). However, contemporary CE literature predominantly focuses on wood's biochemical properties and its potential as a consumable material within the bio‐cycle. This perspective prevents meaningful consideration of CE strategies for the wood products sector, particularly for value‐retention processes (VRPs), including reuse, repair, and refurbishment. We adapt and apply the VRP model introduced by the UN International Resource Panel (IRP) to wood furniture products to quantify select environmental benefits made possible through cascading‐use, via VRPs (vs. new manufacturing). Unlike traditional life cycle assessment (LCA), this model accounts for impacts incurred and avoided through product life‐extension and VRPs, relative to conventional systems of new manufacturing, disposal, and replacement. Three case studies of wood‐based chairs are conducted to demonstrate this new application of the VRP model to compare the relative environmental impacts associated with wood furniture that is diverted to cascading‐use, prior to recycling. In collaboration with industry partners, new material requirements (kg/unit), energy requirements (kWh/unit), emissions (kg CO2‐e./unit), and waste generation (kg/unit) were calculated for newly manufactured chairs (OEM new) and subsequent cascading‐use via reuse, repair, and refurbishment. The differing degrees of environmental impact avoidance and material efficiency are presented for each case study product and VRP, to provoke discussion and future research regarding the effective and optimal utilization of technical, durable wooden furniture within a CE.
Social science research suggests that in our current affluent societies, individuals are accustomed to frequently replacing their household goods. However, some still try to keep their objects for a long time. How do they come to be concerned about products’ lifespan? This paper draws on a powerful method already explored in the literature on consumption: the diachronic approach through individual life trajectories. Analyzing interviews conducted with 60 individuals seeking to make their objects last, this biographical approach allows identifying some factors that explain people's propensity to make objects last. This paper shows that the tendency to keep objects for a long time can come from the familial milieu, just as it can happen later, in connection with personal events—advancement in the life cycle, bifurcations in the personal course, or interactions with public discourses and objects’ breakdowns. Finally, it demonstrates that biographical events can also have a one-time influence on products’ careers in the households, without changing the individual's relationship to objects’ lifespan—these can be personal or more historical and exceptional events, such as lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis.
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It's a PhD thesis - but it can be read and even cited ;) Highlights: - an in-depth analysis of how markets can be transformed to support higher levels of product endurance - a holistic analysis of how changes in product endurance come about - a valuation perspective on market innovation processes - a detailed biography of the mobile phone in the UK Abstract: The poor ability of many consumer durables to last has given rise to serious environmental concerns. How this ability can be improved at the scale of an entire market, however, remains a puzzle. In an exploratory effort to build a first evidence base, this thesis examines a little noticed transformation of a highly conspicuous good: how mobile phones, once considered ‘throwaway objects’ with an average life expectancy of 12 months, morphed into ‘premium platforms’ used for about twice as long. - The case challenges long-standing perspectives according to which the ability of consumer durables to withstand obsolescence either inevitably declines over time or follows an uncontrollable, cyclical development. To make sense of the aforementioned development, I draw on scholarship of market innovation, performativity, and valuation. - The analysis of the case offers, first, much-needed insights on the concrete market settings that can bring about deteriorating or improving levels of product endurance. Building on analogies with the issues of disability and addiction, I discuss the roles that three types of market devices played in shaping the dynamics of mobile phone endurance throughout the years: prosthetic devices, habilitation devices, and addiction devices. - Secondly, the analysis directs attention to the significance of struggles over the valuation of goods for the dynamics of product endurance. Such struggles can be located at the heart of the troublesome emergence of the premium platform market as well as its uncertain future. The findings from this case are discussed in relation to wider debates on the implications of the politics of value for the temporal dynamics of market innovation. I conclude that for studies of product endurance there is much to be gained from the analysis of historical market dynamics.
‘Closing the loop’ through recycling is self-evidently a prerequisite for a circular economy, but ‘slowing the flow’ is equally essential for adequate progress to be made towards sustainable development. Slowing product replacement cycles, however, demands more fundamental change than closing loops. Recycling could be increased with relatively little effect on consumption patterns whereas strategies to extend product lifetimes may challenge the norms of government, industry and consumers. This chapter explores the rapidly evolving debate on product lifetimes in the context of a circular economy. It begins by identifying the origins of the debate in concern about planned obsolescence and the depletion of non-renewable resources, before tracing its recent development in the context of waste prevention, resource efficiency and the circular economy. The need for a circular economy strategy focussed on product lifetimes, alongside recycling, is explained. Over the past decade, product longevity has been placed firmly on the European policy agenda, and there has been an ongoing debate on, for example, how to prevent unduly short-lived products from being placed on the market and the need to communicate information to consumers on the anticipated durability and reparability of products. The chapter concludes that such policies alone will not suffice. In order to move from a throwaway culture to a culture of durability, a transformation is required within education and in economic management.
In diesem Kapitel wird die sich rasch entwickelnde Debatte über die Produktlebenszeiten im Kontext einer Kreislaufwirtschaft untersucht. Die Notwendigkeit einer Kreislaufwirtschaftsstrategie, die sich neben dem Recycling auf die Produktlebensdauer konzentriert, wird erläutert. Recycling könnte mit relativ geringer Auswirkung auf das Konsumverhalten erhöht werden, während Strategien zur Verlängerung der Produktlebensdauer die Standards von Regierung, Industrie und Verbrauchern in Frage stellen können. In den letzten zehn Jahren wurde Langlebigkeit der Produkte fest auf die europäische politische Agenda gesetzt, wobei ausführlich darüber diskutiert wurde, wie verhindert werden kann, dass unangemessen kurzlebige Produkte auf den Markt kommen. Weiters wurden die Möglichkeiten der Informationsvermittlung über die zu erwartende Lebensdauer und Reparaturfähigkeit von Produkten an die Verbraucher diskutiert.
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Working closely with government and industry, CIE-MAP conducts research to identify all the opportunities along the product supply chain that ultimately deliver a reduction in industrial energy use. This is achieved by exploring: Efficiency gains that can be made in industry, including use of heat and improvements in processes; Changing the use of materials needed to make products, including material substitution, light weighting and circular economy; and Changing the way the final consumer (industry, households or government) use products to reduce energy demand, including product longevity and shifts from goods to services. CIE-MAP brings together the four leading UK universities-Bath, Cardiff, Leeds and Nottingham Trent-that offer a range of multidisciplinary expertise. Funded by the Research Council's Energy Programme, CIE-MAP forms one of six centres focused on reducing energy demand in the UK.
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This paper presents findings from a nationally representative household survey on the tendency to regret purchases across 20 product groups. The survey reveals that the vast majority of adults in Great Britain (82%) have regretted a purchase in the past. Post-purchase regret is shown to be particularly prevalent for clothing & footwear and takeaway food. The tendency to regret purchases appears to reduce with age and to be more common amongst white collar rather than blue collar workers. Combining survey results with average price estimates gives an estimated, aggregate, annual expenditure on regretted purchases of £5–25bn, equivalent to 2–10% of annual consumer spending on goods in Great Britain. These findings are interesting because they suggest that there is a degree of self-assessed over-consumption that, if reduced, could help to reduce pressures on the environment.
Conference Paper
Product lifetimes are a relevant topic of discussion towards establishing a circular economy, particularly in terms of the reduction of environmental impacts by improving product longevity. Various researchers have developed models to estimate actual lifetimes and have reported case studies for some product categories (e.g. electrical and electronic equipment, and vehicles). However, actual lifetimes may not necessarily meet consumers' expectations. Therefore, an integration of the two perspectives—actual and expected product lifetimes—should prove helpful in optimizing product lifetimes. We proposed different definitions of expected product lifetimes from the consumer perspective and then investigated consumer expectations of the product lifetimes of consumer durables according to these definitions. Several types of EEE were examined as case studies, and questionnaire surveys were conducted. We found that expected lifetimes varied according to the definition used. Expected product lifetimes should be measured by using clearly defined terms to analyse the gaps between actual product lifetimes and consumer expectations.
Obsolescence is the wearing out of technical appliances. Planned obsolescence is often seen as an economic strategy to improve sales by reducing the lifespan of these appliances. Although there are a lot of public discussions about planned obsolescence, there is a lack of data available to support or contradict this hypothesis. The objective of this survey is to collect quantitative data about the maintenance and discarding history of five household appliances throughout their lifecycle in private households in Germany. The survey is an internet-based questionnaire. A total of 1075 respondents were recruited in Germany and included in the evaluation.
What we consume has become the defining feature of our lives: our economies live or die by spending, we are treated more as consumers than workers, and even public services are presented to us as products in a supermarket. In this monumental study, acclaimed historian Frank Trentmann unfolds the extraordinary history that has shaped our material world, from late Ming China, Renaissance Italy and the British empire to the present. Astonishingly wide-ranging and richly detailed, Empire of Things explores how we have come to live with so much more, how this changed the course of history, and the global challenges we face as a result.
家電製品等の保有者をリデュース・リユース行動へ誘導する基礎的知見を得ることを目的として, テレビ, エアコン, 冷蔵庫, 洗濯機, パソコン, 電子レンジ, 掃除機, ビデオデッキを保有する消費者の過去の廃棄行動ならびに今後の予定廃棄行動についてアンケート調査を行った。その結果, 家電製品の多くは故障による捨替行動として手放されておりリユース行動にはあまり結びついていないこと, リユースを行っても製品の全使用年数が長期化しない場合があること, 需要さえあれば故障していてもリユースされうること, 使用年数が一定期間以上経過した製品等を修理・リユース行動に促すことは保有状況上難しいこと, これらの行動意思があっても半数程度は社会システム的な要因が阻害していること, 製品の使用継続意思は調子が悪くなるだけで急激に低下することなどが示された。