Repair, Reuse, Recycle

Broken appliances, worn-out clothes... What to do with all these products you no longer need? Instead of sorting them out and throwing them away, here are some alternative solutions to give your purchases a second life.

Product under guarantee ? Repair, don’t discard !

Give your items a second life by repairing or repurposing them. Instead of throwing out things we no longer need, let’s think of alternative ways to prolong their shelf lives.

Repairing appliances means less products are discarded, therefore less pollution and less new products are needed. Under European law, all appliances have a 2-year legal guarantee that can be used for repairs or replacement if they break down. The legal guarantee applies regardless of whether you buy from a seller in France or another EU country.

Here are some good examples from Europe:

  • In France as well as in Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway and Romania, the guarantee is on hold while the product is being repaired.
  • If you opt for repairs, in Austria, Croatia, France, Greece and Iceland, you will get your guarantee extended.
  • Since January 2022, French buyers who shop on European websites aiming the French market will have their product guarantee extended by 6 months if they opt to repair a broken product. If the seller replaces the defective product instead of repairing it against your choice, you will benefit from a new 2-year warrantyon thereplaced product.

If you have any doubts about the law applicable to your purchase, do not hesitate to contact your ECC.

Note: If the legal guarantee of conformity has expired, you may have a longer commercial warranty provided by the retailer or the manufacturer. You may benefit from at least one free repair under the product warranty terms. In France, the warranty is on hold until the product is repaired.

Life Beyond Warranty

In 2021, rules on EU manufacturer product guarantees and warranties have changed as follows:

  • Manufacturer guarantee and availability of spare parts for refrigeration appliances is now 7 years.
  • Spare parts must be available for 10 years for washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers.
  • Manufacturers must deliver the spare parts within 15 days.
  • Product guarantee/warranty must detail possible breakages, how they will be repaired and what parts are replaceable as standard.
  • They must provide a list of spare parts available on the Internet

For more information on measures to encourage repairs in European countries, check our article.

Note: If you are unable to repair your product or obtain spare parts, contact your nearest repair shop and think of the numerous co-repair workshops organised throughout Europe. You may just find the parts you need!

Good practices from Europe

  • In Greece, Romania and Portugal you can avail of after-sales assistance/ service, including the supply of spare parts for the estimated average lifespan of the products.
  • In Slovenia, the manufacturer must repair products and supply spare parts for at least 3 years after the expiry of the warranty period, at a cost.
  • In Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, small repairs of bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing and household textiles are subject to a reduced VAT rate.

Donate, Exchange, Repurpose

Are you accumulating bags and bags of old clothes ? Is your TV broken beyond repair ? Think about recycling them !

Here are a few things you can do with your old things !

  • Drop them off at collection points, clothes banks and charity drives.
  • Before donating an item of clothing, consider if it’s worth altering it or repurposing it. Many dressmakers or artists can give a second life (sewing, decoration, etc.) to a garment by turning it into another piece of clothing or decorative item.
  • For electronic or household appliances, contact organisations that offer to recover, repair and resellthis type of second-hand goods.
  • Some shops also collect used items. Find out about the shops’ take-back offers or the recycling or processing solutions to make sure that this is not just greenwashing. Ask about the store’s overall environmental policy. Are other efforts made in this direction? What is its business model? If you see for example that the fashion store is putting out new collections at rock-bottom prices every three weeks and is practicing what is called fast fashion, ask yourself and why not the store if its take-back campaigns are truly eco-responsible and not just greenwashing. You think your questions are disturbing? For many people, consumers and salespeople alike, these questions have become part of their routine, so don’t hesitate.
  • Your old furniture and other appliances can be re-sold in a second-hand sale depot or on consumer-to-consumer online marketplaces. Secondhand sale platforms are available in France, as in other European countries.
  • Consider freecycling and/or swapping. There are exchange platforms where people can donate items for free or swap with others. There are many such groups online and on social media too.

Note: The European Union Waste Management Directive provides a clear framework for the expected life of a product which includes these stages: durable design, reuse, recycling, repurposing, and, only as a last resort, disposal.

Car parts sale and exchange sites

Some car parts websites, especially in Germany, offer discounted prices for trading used parts when you buy new ones (e.g., buy a new particle filter and send in your old, used filter).

Such companies recycle or recondition used parts for resale, a clever way to recycle products which contributes to the overall circular economy.

Note: One thing to keep in mind however is that some of these websites charge you a deposit, refundable upon receipt of the part (this can be as much as €200 or more). Make sure you are not losing this deposit, which is sometimes not refunded on account that the part sent in is incomplete. Some consumers experienced problems having the parts and/or the deposits returned as a result.

Repurposing and Upcycling!

Upcycling literally means repairing and repurposing an old item into something new, sometimes more valuable than the original product. Upcycling involves either refurbishing and perfecting a product or reusing the materials from an old product to create something entirely new. It is often a product of higher quality and more creative.

Examples: transforming a drinks bottle into a vase or a light fixture, making an elaborate handbag out of denim patchwork from old jeans; creating clothes and accessories from manufacturer or retailer stock fabric cut-offs and unsold materials..

Potentially, any old object in your house can have a new life. There are many hobby groups and lots of internet inspiration to help you on an artistic journey which is also good for the environment. If you want to start upcycling now, there are many tutorials, tips and DIY websites to choose from online.

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.