The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how we live our lives. While its impact has undoubtedly been negative, for many people and businesses it has offered an opportunity to reconsider their priorities and behaviours.
One silver lining in this behavioural change has been a dramatic shift towards sustainability and social value, and underpinning this has been a rising awareness of the importance of the circular economy.
The circular economy is, in the simplest of terms, a system in which resources are continually used and reused to minimise, or entirely eliminate, waste. This is often done through repairs, recycling or refurbishment to reduce the amount of waste or pollution. The role of the circular economy in supporting wider sustainability targets is now being widely realised by Government, consumers and businesses alike. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently found that circular economy policies contribute towards tackling the remaining 45% if greenhouse emissions that cannot be resolved by transitioning to renewable energy alone (January, 2021), and the circular economy can offer solutions to the 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress that traditional resource extraction and processing require.
One area that is yet to be fully incorporated into a circular economy model is e-waste, an area in which Birmingham can certainly improve. Official government figures show that the city threw out 412,130 tonnes of household waste in 2018/19 – the equivalent of about 361kg of rubbish for every person – and only 22% of this ended up being recycled, reused or composted.
When it comes to discarding our electrical goods, 1,000,000 tonnes of e-waste are produced annually in the UK, enough to fill six Wembley Stadiums. The vast majority of this is burnt or thrown into landfill, creating environmental hazards for years to come. However, the good news is that 100,000 tonnes of e-waste would be avoided if we fixed just 10% more perfectly repairable appliances. In our own city, Birmingham City Council are working with Veolia to achieve its waste strategy goal of a 40% recycling rate by 2026 and as an electrical spare parts retailer, we have seen incredibly encouraging trends throughout 2020 that demonstrate this move towards a circular economy.
There is a growing appetite among young people for repairing and recycling their electrical goods. We recently conducted a survey of 5,000 people and found that 29% of those between the ages of 18-34 would try to fix white goods themselves if they broke outside of a manufacturer’s warranty period – this is almost twice as much as the generations above. Those aged between 34-54 (16%), and nearly three times as many as those between 55-64 (11%).
Our leading consumer brand eSpares has seen record-breaking surges in demand over the past year, with a huge 319% rise in visits from 18-24-year-olds last year demonstrating that consumers are looking to fix appliances themselves rather than simply throwing them out.
We believe a circular economy should be at the heart of our business, so we have taken steps to encourage our customers to drive a circular economy throughout the year with the campaign #FixFirst. As a business and a retailer, it is our responsibility to help educate our customers on the benefits of a circular economy. Free services like our Advice Centre, which has over 700 step-by-step articles and attracted 1.2million visits in 2020, contribute to this by offering assistance on making repairs around the home whenever and wherever it is needed.
Consumer attitudes are moving in one direction on the topic of the circular economy and it is therefore essential that businesses make this a key priority.
In direct to consumer in sectors like the one in which we operate, sustainability credentials are fast becoming as important to consumers as price. We believe that it must also be a priority for businesses, ensuring that they champion the benefits of the circular economy and encourage these consumer behaviours permanently. Strong policies on the circular economy will both drive environmental benefit and allow businesses to stay ahead of a trend that is fast becoming a key concern amongst consumers.
More About CDSL
Connect Distribution Services Limited (CDSL) has been an integral part of the home appliance industry since 1969. Over the decades, the Birmingham-based group has evolved and expanded more and more. It now provides appliance products and services both to independent businesses and directly to consumers. Maintaining close relationships with leading appliance brands like Hoover and Samsung allows the group to stay at the cutting edge of the market. CDSL was established by one enterprising appliance engineer over 50 years ago. Its 600 strong workforce is still proudly family-run today, but the once small business has grown into a thriving international group with passion to spare.
eSpares (espares.co.uk) have helped keep appliances working since 2003 when they first launched their ecommerce website. As well as selling spare parts and accessories to repair and maintain household appliances they also educate people about appliance repairs. Their how-to video tutorials have been viewed over 50 million times and their website sees over 750,000 yearly transactions. eSpares are appliance repair advocates and make it their mission to stop vital repair skills from dying out, save households money and protect the environment from e-waste.
CEO of CDSL, the UK’s leading appliance spare parts distributor