Ending resource waste is 1 of the 3 main challenges addressed in the Quebec Residual Materials Management Policy1. It is estimated that more than 14 million tonnes of residual materials are generated annually in Quebec, with 5.8 million tonnes (41%) still going to landfill or incineration in 2018.2 Preventing and reducing the production of residual materials through reuse and other means is one of the recommended strategies to address this issue.
The Quebec circular economy model3 sets out a number of strategies to better understand the different ways to extend the product life cycle and optimize the use of resources in circulation, particularly through reuse: maintenance and repair, donation and resale, reconditioning and the economy of functionality. Ecodesign is another upstream circular economy strategy that can help extend product life. Product obsolescence, whether functional, technological, economic, psychological or other, is a major obstacle to extending the product life cycle and must therefore be considered in all its forms.
Many initiatives are emerging internationally to extend product life and encourage product repair. The European Commission has adopted a new circular economy action plan that includes measures related to product durability, what consumers need to know when choosing products and the creation of a “right to repair.”4 In France, a repairability index across five product categories will come into effect on January 1, 2021, along with the obligation to inform consumers of the availability (or lack of availability) of spare parts for certain product categories.5 France’s Agence de la transition écologique (ADEME) published an international benchmark for the repair sector in 2018.6 Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium have lowered taxes on repairs. Repair cafés, where people can get help from volunteers to repair their items, have sprung up in a number of countries. SEB, a French manufacturer of small household appliances, offers European customers products that are repairable for 10 years, with guaranteed spare parts during that time and a lower cost to repair than to purchase an equivalent new product.7
In Quebec, reduction at source and reuse are the priorities for action, and the 2019–2024 Action Plan stemming from the Quebec Residual Materials Management Policy8 provides for initiatives to counter planned obsolescence and extend product life, particularly through repair.