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Businesses must take responsibility for disposable Britain

Embargoed until 00.01am, 18th March 2005

80% of products are discarded after just one use as Britain creates its own body weight in rubbish every four days

Research from Envirowise has revealed the extent to which ‘throwaway culture’ has taken hold in Britain. The government programme found that the majority of Britons believe that most products are not designed to last a lifetime. Sixty-five per cent feel that products do not last as long as they did 25 years ago, and that even larger items like washing machines will only last a few years before they must be replaced:
· 46% of people expect a washing machine to last less than six years
· 75% think a laser jet printer will last less than six years
· 74% expect a kettle to break within six years
· 51% of iPod owners confess they have no idea how long the device will continue to function (but just 8% think they will last more than 5 years)
· 40% expect a mobile phone to last two years or less, despite the batteries lasting approximately seven years in reality

Worryingly, many people simply discard and replace even expensive electrical goods rather than having them repaired:
· 80% of all products are thrown away after one use
· Almost one third (31%) would not consider repairing a TV if it was worth less than £300. More than five million TVs are ditched every year in the UK
· Fewer than 50% of people are aware of a local TV repair service

It is little wonder then, that Britain produces around eight tonnes of waste per head of population every year – equivalent to throwing away its own body weight of waste every four days .

Martin Gibson, Director of the Envirowise programme said: “People simply do not seem to expect the products they buy to last very long and do not see repair as a viable option. Sadly that throwaway culture translates into huge quantities of waste. I would encourage more people to investigate having appliances repaired rather than simply throwing them away and buying new – in so doing they could save money and do their bit for the environment. First consider how to reuse, and then consider recycling.

“But the only way to really change this situation is to encourage businesses to revisit product design – to look at ways to either extend their lifecycles or make them easier and cheaper to repair. This shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a cost to business - ‘cleaner design’ is about simplicity, which usually means better, more profitable products.”

Businesses interested in learning more about cleaner design and how it might be applied to their products can request a free confidential designtrack visit from Envirowise. Designtrack advisors visit firms and spend a day reviewing product design to look for efficacies and unnecessary waste.

Paul Steedman, senior researcher on sustainable consumption at NCC, said: “This research shows how little confidence consumers have in the sustainability and durability of the things they buy, just when they are increasingly demanding products that are less harmful to the environment.

“The National Consumer Council wants to see government and industry taking action to help consumers turn those good intentions into more sustainable buying choices. Government incentives to encourage industry to invest in less damaging, repairable and more durable products are one way forward.”

-end-

Available for interview on request: Dr Martin Gibson, Director, Envirowise

Notes to editors:
The research was carried out by YouGov on 1-3 February 2005 among 1,971 consumers.

About Envirowise
Envirowise is funded by DTI and DEFRA and works in partnership with the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly for Wales. Since 1994, Envirowise has helped UK industry save £1 billion. Envirowise offers advice to help companies identify where waste production can be minimised and cost-savings made. Envirowise services are free of charge and are completely confidential. More information can be found at www.envirowise.gov.uk or on 0800 585 794.

For more information, please contact:
Niall Cowley
Tel: 020 8434 5509
Mobile: 07974 161 114
Email niall.cowley@augustone.com

Kirstina Reitan
AUGUST.ONE COMMUNICATIONS
Tel: 020 8434 5559
Mobile: 07980 878 270
Email kirstina.reitan@augustone.com