Environmental Design for Household Appliances – coming soon!

Appliance Lifecycle

Do you or your parents still use a washing machine, microwave or fridge purchased in the 1980s? A normal enough comment made about these older appliances is “they go forever”  

BBC News did some research and of all the washing machine models still washing the oldest was a Zanussi 918 having run for at least 31 years.  The oldest microwave was a National Panasonic Genius, bought in 1980 and still in service.

How about the fridge or washing machine you had delivered to your new home or apartment 4 or 5 years ago. They seemed to give up in no time. Very different experiences!

They really don’t build them like they used to? No, we don’t think so and the industry admits that the lifespan of white goods has fallen, but so has the price. So how long should a fridge or a freezer last, and is it worth spending a bit more on a better model?

Fridge Display
Refrigeration Display (Prestcold), Electricity Exhibition 1972 – Sourced from “Horowhenua Historical Society Inc.”


The Whitegoods Trade Association says that over the past two decades electrical appliance prices have, in real terms, dropped largely due to consumer and retailer demand for lower-cost appliances. The reduction in prices has had several effects on the appliances themselves and a massive effect on the industry in general.

The average lifespan of appliances has dropped in relation to the prices. Now, over 80% of all washing machines sold cost under €600 while over 40% washing machines cost customers under €400 (approx.)

Cheaper household appliances (cheaper in real terms) really don’t have the same build quality, performance or longevity and therefore the average lifespan has dropped from over ten years to under seven years and it is not unusual for really low-cost appliances to only last a few years.

Washing Machine Price Tracker
Washing Machines GBP Price Inflation Tracked – Figures Sourced from Office of National Statistics (ONS)

You can find out more about the prices of washing machines and other appliances here, which explains how much they have been devalued over time.


There is a world-wide demand for more efficient products to reduce energy and resource consumption. The EU legislation on ecodesign and energy labelling is an effective tool for improving the energy efficiency of products. It helps eliminate under-performing products from the market and a supports competitiveness, innovation and greater environmental performance from new products sold in the European Union.

What Happens Next

In 2016 large household appliances like washing machines and dishwashers accounted for 2.5 million tonnes or 55.6 % of the total waste electrical and electronic equipment collected and recycled in the European Union. (Source Eurostat). Ideally, some of these items could have been repaired or reused prior to recycling!

Eco - Washing Machines
Instore Image – Washing Machines

But change is coming, As of 2021, all TVs, monitors, fridges, freezers, washing machines, washer-dryers, dishwashers and lighting products placed on the EU market will have to meet minimum repairability requirements aimed at extending their lifetime. These products will also be made easier to recycle thanks to improved design and, in the case of displays, the removal of halogenated flame retardants.

The new measures are part of the EU’s Ecodesign Directive, which removes the most wasteful products from the market, replacing them with units that do the same job with less energy and resources. The repairability requirements can help deliver even more savings by slashing demand for new products and carbon emissions linked to manufacturing, distributing, using and disposing of products.

How ecodesign benefits consumers

  • Improves product information for consumers.
  • Allows for informed purchase decisions.
  • Allows performance comparisons across products (e.g. drying efficiency).
  • Increases the need for products to be useful during operation.
  • Easier to repair for reuse including the availability of parts.
  • Energy-saving resulting in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Water use savings from efficient washing machines and dishwashers.
  • Noise reduction in products such as dishwashers.
Eco Design
Eco-Label / Eco-Design

In Reality 

The policies should increase the energy efficiency of lighting products, common household appliances and industrial, electrical and electronic equipment. It also requires products to be easily reparability and recyclability in accordance with the EU’s Circular Economy Strategy. This should be good news for consumers and the environment but we will see in 2021 and after as we replace appliances!

About Recycle IT

Recycle IT is an award-winning not for profit social enterprise providing a collection and drop off service for all types of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Over a last number of years Recycle IT have offered a drop-off and collection service to tens of thousands of homes, communities, schools, charities, and businesses across Dublin and surrounding areas recycling a range of WEEE which includes thousands of computers, cables, monitors, microwaves and TV’s.

Recycle IT services are provided in partnership with WEEE Ireland. Recycle IT are supported by South Dublin County Council and authorized by the National Waste Collection Permit Office and the local authorities across Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.

Visit our website for further details about recycling old electrical items or call 01 4578321 to learn more.

IMG_0453 (2)
Recycle IT – Repak Award Winner 2019 – WEEE Champion

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