• St. Godard, J-A, Lavalley, S. (2022). Landscape Review of Repairability in Canada. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

Current linear models of production and consumption (i.e., take–make–waste) have proven to be unsustainable. Many products are designed and used with a limited life and diminishing value, and the environmental and social costs are not factored into the purchase price. Canada’s resource-based economy depends on the ability to preserve the value of finite resources and natural capital for success. A circular economy is built on production and consumption models that redefine value and include environmental protection, social well-being, and economic health. Core to activating a circular economy is extending the useful lifespan of products and the materials inherent to them [1].

The opportunity that repairability presents—to extend product life, facilitate reuse, and prevent usable goods and their parts from being lost to disposal—is gathering significant attention as Canada transitions to a circular economy. Value-retention processes (VRPs), which include arranging direct reuse, repair, refurbishment, and remanufacturing, are critical activities that must be prioritized and encouraged. Although the benefits that product repairability contributes to the environment and economy in Canada are significant, there are barriers to participation in repair activities.

This report explores the current landscape of repair in Canada and provides a summary of the intervention options to encourage increased participation in repair activities and better repairability of products. This research was undertaken through a literature review and stakeholder interviews with experts from government, industry, academia, and consumer advocacy organizations.

Four product categories were selected for this research: automotive, agricultural, home appliances, and consumer electronics. These categories represent a wide array of consumer-facing products where improved access to repair can have impactful environmental, social and economic outcomes. Further, these product categories are often at the forefront of right to repair movements, regulatory amendments, and standards development.

The literature review and stakeholder interviews revealed that product repair is hindered by three key barriers:

  1. Consumer perceptions and willingness to participate in repair activities;
  2. Availability of tools, parts, and technical knowledge to execute repairs; and
  3. Technical barriers that are inherent to the products themselves.

Interventions for improved repairability include standards development and regulatory interventions. Standards-based tools can provide a benchmark for repairability of a product so consumers can make informed choices at the point of purchase. Standards can also help support product design that considers technical barriers to repair. Regulatory interventions can help increase repairability by reducing product design barriers, enhancing consumer protections, and promoting competitive fairness. They have been introduced at the international, national, state, and provincial/territorial levels. In Canada, the federal government has included commitments to encourage and facilitate repair in mandate letters to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Minister of Finance [2].

Addressing existing barriers and providing standardized tools with supporting regulations can encourage product repairability and help to advance a circular economy, ultimately leading to increased efficiency in material and energy use, reduced emissions and waste, growth in secondary markets for products that would have been discarded, and support for community-based repair services, training, and solutions.

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