Three in four washing machines that are dumped still work

Three in four washing machines that are dumped still work
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Three in four washing machines left in Belgium's container parks are still fit for use or repairable, according to a survey by consumer organisation Test Achat.

The machines in question are no longer under guarantee and owners appear to prefer to buy a new machine, even if the older model is still perfectly functional or at least can be repaired.

The investigation by Test Achat was timed to be released in time for International Repair Day, which took place on Saturday 15 October.

According to a study by the recycling agency Recupel, the average household contains 95 electric devices, from washing machines to clock radios. It numbered 482 different kinds of device commonly used in the country.

Throwaway culture

Test Achat gathered information from around 5,000 households, surveying consumers about their attitude to repairing these sorts of products.

It emerged that for devices still under guarantee (a period of generally two years), owners were prepared to pay for repairs in 70% of cases. But that attitude changed dramatically once the guarantee period had expired. The same effect can be seen with other products.

“Once the warranty period is over, the chance that a device will still be repaired is at least halved,” said Simon November of the consumer organization. “Only one in three laptops and 30% of washing machines will be repaired. For printers, this is 14% and for coffee machines it's one in seven at most.”

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A quarter of washing machines that arrive in Belgium's container parks cannot be repaired. However, for the other three quarters, a repair would be possible. And although this would cost money, it would not be anywhere as expensive as a new machine.

Another factor that can increase repair costs is that it comes with an additional VAT. November told Het Laatste Nieuws that an extension of the guarantee period from two to three or four years would encourage more owners to opt for repair rather than dumping.

Other possible solutions could be a version of the French system, where products are given a repair index, allowing potential buyers to see how likely it is that a repair will be either successful or prohibitively expensive.

Federal minister for durable development Zakia Khattabi (Ecolo) proposed dedicating a section of container parks to products that are able to be repaired. They could then be made available to people who can't afford a brand-new version.

Finally, a longer legal guarantee period could be an incentive for manufacturers to make their products more durable. Test Achats has developed a free online repair guide with a solution for the most common defects.

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