Product Longevity

Project
  • Unit(s) of assessment: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning
  • Research theme: Sustainable Futures
  • School: School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences

Overview

Increasing consumption is damaging the environment

The production of consumer goods uses fossil fuels, which means that they embody carbon and contribute to climate change. Ever-increasing consumption in industrialised economies has therefore before a problem. Across Europe, political interest is growing in preventing undesirability, therefore providing product lifetime information to consumers, and promoting repair.

Addressing the Challenge

Ensuring consumer satisfaction whilst limiting climate change

Researchers at Nottingham Trent University are investigating how to reduce the consumption of materials in the UK. The intention is to develop business practices and policy solutions that will achieve this without compromising human wellbeing. The team focuses on product longevity and represents the world’s leading body of experts in this field.

A major consumer survey has revealed current levels of satisfaction with product lifetimes. Researchers have also studied how best to recover discarded electrical appliances, furniture, and other consumer durables, with the aim of increasing reuse, and to identify opportunities to scale-up the market for upcycled products.

The team is exploring different approaches to reducing consumption, such as car sharing and increasing the lifetime of the cars themselves. Other studies are providing guidance for designers, assessing the viability of innovative business models, and examining the potential to repair products rather than disposing them.

The research is being undertaken by staff in the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP). This five-year project is funded by a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), of which NTU receives £1.25 million.

People

A world-leading body of experts

NTU’s multidisciplinary team is led by Professor Tim Cooper, a social scientist who has worked in the field of product longevity for over twenty years. CIE-MAP employs five researchers at NTU and works in collaboration with the Universities of Leeds, Cardiff and Bath; industry representatives; and public bodies such as the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Committee on Climate Change, and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). NTU’s team also includes four PhD research students.

Making a Difference

Increased product lifetimes as a means toward a low-carbon sustainable society

The research findings will enable government and industry policymakers to understand the relationship between product lifetimes and carbon emissions. It will also allow them to identify factors that influence the intrinsic durability of consumer goods and how long consumers choose to keep them.

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