// . //  //  Consumer And Home Electronics — Going Full Circle

This article is part of the Retail And Consumer Journal.

The concept of the circular economy, where materials and products are reused and recycled for as long as possible, is certainly a noble one. However, our latest research revealed that some countries still have work to do to achieve this ideal. Even in Germany, the supposed "world champion of recycling," a third of the country’s old kitchen appliances, washing machines, and entertainment electronics — and an even higher share of smartphones — are not recycled. The material value of discarded devices amounts to €5 billion nationwide.

Exhibit 1: Limited knowledge exists on how to recycle e-waste
I know how to properly recycle:
Germany is a country of bulky waste collection. But there is a lack of implementation when it comes to recycling electrical appliances. At the same time, younger people are taking a more holistic approach to the circular economy by buying refurbished devices or renting instead of buying them
Dr. Sara Warneke, Managing Director, GFU
Exhibit 2: A wealth of resources are lying unused in households
In my home there are x unused or broken:
A more effective resource utilization in consumer electronics requires greater efforts from manufacturers, retailers, and policymakers alike. Going full circle is in everyone's interest. If the European Green Deal is to be taken seriously, manufacturers need to rethink their product designs
Dr. Martin Schulte, partner, Oliver Wyman

The primary reason for this waste of resources is a lack of awareness about recycling options. In our recent survey, conducted with the electronics industry trade group gfu Consumer & Home Electronics, which involved 1,000 consumers from Germany, the United Kingdom, and France, it was found that one-quarter of the respondents did not know ecologically sensible ways to recycle electrical devices. That was especially true for younger people. Only half of adults under 35 knew how to recycle a large kitchen appliance.

Many e-waste recycling options, including returns to electronics stores, supermarkets, and the original manufacturers, were largely unknown to survey respondents. The results stand in sharp contrast with other categories of materials. Roughly 90% of all respondents knew how to properly recycle paper, plastic, glass, and clothing. To remedy this, consumers need more convenient and free options such as designated recycling points, e-waste collection days, and incentive systems.

Exhibit 3: Many reasons against repairing are solvable
I didn’t repair this because:

In addition to issues with recycling, the study found that consumers get just 22% of their electronic devices repaired. The causes for that low figure are mostly solvable through efforts by legislators and industry to improve product repairability and increase the availability of spare parts.

This is where the EU's Green Deal initiative comes in, with France leading the way as the pilot market for the "repairability index" introduced in 2021. Under this system, manufacturers calculate a score between 0 and 10 to each electronic device, indicating how difficult it is to repair and informing customers about their available repair options prior to purchase. It's been effective. In France, the repair rate stands at 32%, surpassing both Germany (22%) and the United Kingdom (24%). Additionally, there is growing pressure, especially among younger adults, for free returns and improved information about recycling options in general.