What's all this rubbish about repair?

The UK generated over 200 million tons of waste in 2012 which comprised 14% from households (www.gov.uk 2015). Of household waste, 2 million tons can be attributed to WEEE each year (www.hse.gov.uk 2015) of which 7% is currently re-used (Zero waste Scotland, April 2014). Indications are that 23% of all WEEE is immediately resalable, or resalable following viable repair and refurbishment (WEEE, WRAP, HWRC 2011).


In the context of WEEE, repair has become a more challenging, costly and time-consuming option. Given the ease with which new items may be purchased, and old items disposed, replacement tends to take preference over repair. A key question which needs to be addressed is ‘how can the levels of waste be reduced and repair/refurbishment of WEEE be increased through the provision of manufacturer-provided repair services?’


Professor Duncan McFarlane and Dr Rachel Cuthbert are scoping a research project looking at repair services for domestic appliances. The research areas include:

  • economic requirements and business/contract models
  • design guidelines and material considerations which facilitate repair
  • an information model to enable/support/enhance the repair/replacement/upgrade process
  • automation of repairs
  • standards and legislation


They are keen to gain a range of perspectives on this research area and welcome interest from potential industrial collaborators. Please contact rc443@cam.ac.uk for further information.

Date published

29 April 2015

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