Remanufacturing has role in war on waste

Shoe-horned somewhere between reuse and recycling, remanufacturing sits uncomfortably in the standard waste hierarchy.

re-processing empty printer cartridges is a classic example of remanufacturing

re-processing empty printer cartridges is a classic example of remanufacturing

But the process - which essentially boils down to reusing the parts of a product which weather well and replacing those that wear out faster - can trace its roots back centuries to when repairing - rather than replacing - was the norm.

Though the drivers behind the process were originally purely economic - it's cheaper to remanufacture than build from scratch - the idea has a major environmental role to play in both cutting carbon emissions and reducing waste.

According to its advocates, The UK remanufacturing industry employs more than 50,000 people and contributes £5 billion to the nation's economy, covering everything from printer cartridges to rugged industrial machinery.

Nevertheless, the sector has been almost invisible, despite being on a par with the entire UK recycling industry.

One of the main hurdles today, however, is persuading both consumers and industry that remanufactured products really are as good as new while clearing up confusion over what exactly the term means.

Ben Walsh, technical consultant at the government-sponsored Centre for Remanufacturing and Reuse, acknowledged the problem, telling edie: "This is one of the big obstacles that we have - there's an issue that second hand is seen as second best.

"We try to differentiate between remanufacturing and all the other terms that are bandied about like refurbishing and refitting.

"We have a formal definition - bringing end of life products back to as good as new with a warranty to match."

In an effort to clear things up, his organisation has been working with the British Standards Institution (BSI) to draw up a standard which clearly defines what remanufacturing is - and clarifying the crucial differences between it and similar processes.

It is also re-launching a new look website,, which explains what remanufacturing is, who is doing it and with what products as well as providing a wealth of advice for businesses wanting to make cost savings while helping the environment.

Sam Bond



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