A hierarchical structure of the product can simplify assembly, and reduce the necessary work input. In addition, this minimizes disassembly time, which is a crucial criterion for the cost benefit ratio of refurbishing.
Reducing the diversity of components makes assembly simpler and minimizes work input. Simple assembly/disassembly and minimization of the number of components improve reparability of the product at use stage. In addition, this reduces disassembly time, which is a crucial criterion for the cost benefit ratio of refurbishing.
Taking back the product after the use stage is one of the prerequisites for refurbishing and reusing parts and components; the same applies to the correct disposal of hazardous materials such as substances found in refrigerators. An efficient collecting system that does not ask an unreasonable effort on the part of the end user will be an incentive to return the product. High return rates, in turn, are a prerequisite for economically feasible refurbishing. Therefore, product take back should be realized within the framework of existing or newly established collecting systems.
High return rates ensure that only a small portion of the products leaves closed cycles and becomes waste. The major part – in ideal cases 100% - is returned to the producer who disassembles the product, refurbishes and reuses parts, recycles materials, and disposes of hazardous substances in an environmentally acceptable way. The higher the return rate the greater the benefit for the environment, and, what is more, the higher the economical efficiency of the overall process of refurbishing and/or recycling. Therefore, it would be in the best interest of the environment (and of the manufacturer) to create incentives for consumers to return the product after use.
As reuse does not destroy the structure of components nor impairs the quality of materials this approach to the after-use stage represents the highest value. In order to be able to decide whether a structural part may be reused as such or whether it has to be recycled (thus yielding less value) adequate testing and measuring procedures are required.
In order to achieve maximum benefit with the resources used, design should aim at a long useful life of the components of the product so they can be refurbished and reused. Components that are exposed to wear or deformation through use of the product need sufficient overmeasure of material for reworking if they have to meet certain requirements such as precise concentricity, an precise flatness or a special surface finish.
In refurbishing a product the probable remaining service life will determine whether or not a component is suitable for reuse. In order to avoid (usually expensive) testing and measuring procedures adequate labeling can indicate the approximate remaining life of a component. This approach is particularly reasonable with components that are exposed to known loads and wear or have a clearly defined service life.
Usually, parts and components have to be cleaned prior to reuse. Efficient refurbishing requires minimum expenditure for cleaning – concerning time input, consumption of cleaners, etc. Designing a product for easy cleaning means, for instance, to avoid cumbersome and inaccessible corners or edges. It is most important that surfaces bear cleaning; scratches etc. would cause premature disposal of the component.
Reuse of components is the most desirable form of recycling because structures are not destroyed and a great part of the value is conserved in the respective component. This increases the overall proportion of reused components and conserves resources. Using standardized elements, parts with standardized fitting dimensions, etc. considerably simplifies reuse, especially if minor modifications have been realized in the production process.
Reusing parts in other products also conserves a high value in the component as its structure is not destroyed. Minor adaptations or reworking of parts that can not be directly reused make them suitable for use in other products. The windows of scrapped washing machines could be used as decorative glass bowls.
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