NEW:  JRC Technical report “Analysis of durability, reusability and reparability – Application to dishwashers and washing machines”


Policy drivers

Resource efficiency, which basically aims to provide the same product or service while reducing the amount of resource needed and wasted, has become a major goal in several EU policy documents (e.g. COM(2011)21 ‘A Resource-Efficient Europe’). Together with energy efficiency (which mostly looks at energy consumption during the use phase), material efficiency of products is an important component of resource efficiency. Material efficiency ‘can refer to the amount of virgin natural resources required for producing a given amount of product, with recycling waste material / and re-using components back into other life cycle stages (e.g. production, maintenance)’ (adapted from (Peck,M. & Chipman,R., in Industrial Development for the 21st Century, UN Edition, 2007)). Increasing material efficiency is key to bringing about major economic opportunities, to improve productivity, to drive down costs and to boost competitiveness in Europe. Improved material efficiency can be achieved by various ways, e.g. by improving production processes (reducing losses and waste and promoting the efficient use of resources, including recycled materials), by improving products (e.g. increasing quality of products, their durability over the lifetime, and ability to be reused / recycled / recovered at their end-of-life), and by developing new business models (e.g. by designing modular products or providing services optimized for large number of users).

The ‘Raw Material Initiative’ COM(2008)699 identified end-of-life products as being very important sources of secondary raw materials for the EU, including for high-tech metals (e.g. platinum, rare earths, indium). Recently, several policy documents explicitly called for further  improvement of recovery yields (quality and quantity) of these kinds of raw materials using material efficient design: for example, the Circular Economy Action Plan COM(2015) 614/2 clearly positions product design (in particular through Ecodesign Directive and other product policies) as one of the pillars of the Circular Economy. The Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC) covers a large range of energy-related products (including high-efficiency appliances that contain several high-tech metals) and seems therefore an appropriate policy instrument to implement minimum requirements concerning material efficient design.


Implementing measures

In order to be implemented in practice, material efficiency of products necessitate further research and appropriate metrics need to be developed. To this end, the Joint Research Centre has been developing and improving since 2010 the “Resource Efficiency Assessment of Products” (REAPro) method that is scientifically robust to assess material efficiency of Energy-related products (ErP) according to several criteria, including:

  • Recyclability/Recoverability: improving this performance ensures that products and resources contained will be recycled/recovered at the end-of-life and boosts the market for secondary raw materials;
  • Content of dangerous chemical substances: improving this performance ensures a non-toxic circular economy;
  • Recycled / re-used content: improving this performance ensures a market for secondary raw materials / components;
  • Durability / reparability / re-usability: improving this performance extends the use of raw materials;
  • Content of key resources, including critical raw materials (CRM), precious and scarce materials: improving this performance contributes to better management of raw materials in Europe highly dependent on the import of these.

The REAPro method has been tailored to be used in particular for the implementation of the Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC) to identify workable product requirements. The method is composed of five steps: characterization of the product; assessment against the selected criteria; identification of product’s hot spots; identification of improvement measures for the product and assessment of policy measures for material efficiency. It can be used in other policy contexts.


Achievement and prospects

The REAPro method has been applied to various product groups (e.g. washing machine, dishwasher, electronic displays, commercial refrigeration appliances, enterprise servers, vacuum cleaners) and the results are being used in various product policy discussions, including the EU Ecolabel legislation. Innovative product requirements have been identified concerning Design for Disassembly/Dismantling, recycled content and recyclability rates, declaration of the content of dangerous substances and Critical Raw Materials.

Current activities include the refinement of the method by extending the scope of the metrics (e.g. including methods for assessing/testing durability / reparability / re-usability of products), application to new case studies, collection of underlying data (concerning e.g. recyclability rates), and development of innovative and verifiable criteria.




Scientific papers

  • HUYSMAN,S., SALA,S., MANCINI,L., ARDENTE,F., ALVARENGA, R.A.F., DE MEESTER,S., MATHIEUX,F., DEWULF,J. Toward a systematized framework for resource efficiency indicators. Resource, Conservation and Recycling 95 (2015) 68-76.
  • ARDENTE,F., MATHIEUX,F. (2014). Identification and assessment of product’s measures to improve resource efficiency: the case-study of an Energy Using Product. Journal of Cleaner Production, 83, 126-141. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.07.058. (OPEN ACCESS)
  • ARDENTE, F. MATHIEUX F. (2014). Environmental assessment of the durability of energy-using products: Method and application. Journal of Cleaner Production, 74, 62-73. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.03.049 (OPEN ACCESS)
  • ARDENTE, F. MATHIEUX, F., RECCHIONI, M (2014). Recycling of electronic displays: analysis of pre-processing and potential ecodesign improvements. Resource, Conservation and Recycling. 92, 158-171. (OPEN ACCESS)


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