Product Use Efficiency

Decarbonization Avenue : Product Use Efficiency

Similar to energy efficiency, resource use efficiency could significantly impact decarbonization. While recycling has emerged as a prominent pathway to recover value from waste, a more valuable approach is to derive the most value out of a product before disposal for the longest possible time, through proper maintenance, repairing or refurbishing it.

Estimates suggest that consumers in developed countries throw away 60% of their clothing within the first year, and fast fashion creates waste worth almost $500 billion a year. This is shocking, given that most items of clothing can be used for many years. 

Throwing away perfectly good-to-use products goes far beyond fashion - consumer electronics, furniture, vehicles and more. And it’s not just consumers alone, but many other players in the ecosystem are to blame for this - the OEMs themselves, the retail sector and more recently, the e-commerce portals, all of which want their customers to purchase many more of their goods than necessary.

Every good produced has a carbon footprint. While recycling does reduce the overall carbon footprint of a product, it is thus obvious that the best way to reduce CO2 emissions is not to produce something that is not needed. The good news is that many consumer product firms have started orienting their corporate philosophy and actions towards educating their consumers on more sustainable product use.

For the 2020-2030 period, expect innovations in this domain in clothing rentals, reusable sanitary products, apparel  & gadget repair, furniture remanufacturing, reusable packaging for FMCG goods, markets for second hand, refurbished & resale.

Decarbonization potential

The way we produce, consume, and dispose of our goods and food accounts for 45% of our greenhouse gas emissions (Ellen MacArthur Foundation). The business case for the increased reuse of materials, so that the embodied carbon is used to its fullest extent rather than wasted cannot be more clear.

Let’s take the example of textiles & apparel. Close to 100 million tons of textile & apparel waste are generated each year, with only a small percentage recycled - a single cotton T-shirt emits about 2.5 Kg of CO2 over its production and use cycle, not even considering the methane it could emit from rotting in a landfill. A large portion of this waste could have been used for a much longer period, either with no repairs (the price of fast fashion) or with some repairs. Under suitable assumptions, just extending the use of apparel by an extra 50% of time could lead to CO2 emissions savings in excess of 100 million tons a year globally.

If we extend the above analyses to other goods and sectors, the real decarbonization potential from product use efficiency becomes quite clear.

Industries impacted

  • Consumer durables
  • Fast moving consumer goods
  • Electrical
  • Electronics & semiconductors
  • Packaging & plastics
  • Printing & publishing
  • Paper & forest products
  • Textile & apparel
  • Waste management

Latest News on Product Use Efficiency

Themes & Topics

  • Products

    • Apparel & accessories

    • Paper & plastic

    • Furniture

    • Automobiles

    • Electronics & electrical goods

    • Batteries

    • Industrial equipment

  • Approaches for use efficiency

    • Better product design

    • Local support for success of repair and reuse

    • Modularity & reuse

    • Behavioural sciences












  • Product life extension through:

    • Repair

    • Better maintenance

    • Knowledge & awareness

    • Renting & sharing

    • Remanufacturing

    • Upcycling

  • Enabling policies

  • Use of IT & digital tools

  • Knowledge & capacity building

    • Use of online resources for awareness & training















© 2024 Clixoo