Last edited 25 Feb 2022

Product-life extension: product-life factor


[edit] Introduction

In 1982 the Mitchell prize-winning paper by Walter Stahel discussed the terms product life-factor and product life extension. The paper described three potential product-life alternatives that existed in what was described as ‘a linear production-consumption system with inbuilt environmental deterioration at both ends'

[edit] The fast-replacement system

The fast-replacement system is focussed on economies of scale in production, a fast deprecation of value, and in turn fast replacement, where a growth economy relies on higher production rates that are achieved through the shorter design life of products, leading to waste at the end of life in a linear system.

[edit] The slow-replacement system (longer life products)

The slow-replacement system is described in similar linear terms, but technological advances may double the life span of certain higher value products, such as cars lasting twenty years instead of ten years, before their end-of-life scenario as material waste.

[edit] The self-replenishing system (product life extension or product life factor)

The self-replenishing system is described as being a spiral-loop system designed to ‘minimise matter, energy-flow and environmental deterioration without restricting economic growth, or social and technological progress'.

This system in turn is described by four loops. The first loop is the reuse loop, the second the repair loop, the third the reconditioning loop, and the fourth the recycling loop.

These are the ‘four Rs of appropriate technology' as described by John Davis. The paper goes on to explain more detailed terms such as technical and production maturity, life extension procedures, and assembly folies. In particular immobile systems and terms relating to the construction of buildings, such as re-envelopping, re-building, and upbuilding. Three reasons are suggested as to why short-life products are so widespread: technological and economic disincentives, psychological obstacles within ourselves, and self-perpetuating vicious circles. Design, taxation, and approaches to raw material selection are described as methods to overcome key barriers and achieve product life extensions needed to transition to a sustainable economy.

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