The UN Hears the Benefits of Refurb

The World Circular Economy Forum took place this month in Japan. It was an amazing chance to discuss and develop ideas around materials usage and how more sustainable solutions can be developed long term. As committed circular economists since 2005, we followed the discussion and were interested by the results.


One report we found particularly insightful was written by two academics from Rochester Institute of Technology. Entitled “Redefining Value: The Manufacturing Revolution”, the summary for policymakers covered the range of “value retention” processes, namely remanufacturing, (comprehensive) refurbishment, repair and direct reuse. Of particular interest to us were some of the quantitative values given to the benefits of quality refurbishment and remanufacture for the environment and the economy.


Some of the findings of the report were not new to us. For example, the cost savings of 15%-80% compared to new product are standard to us and our customers, and we frequently deliver on deals that are at the high end of this saving. We also knew that quality refurbishment results in dramatically lower production waste (80% to 95% less) than original manufacturing. However, the report also contained some key figures on the environmental benefits of reuse that were new and interesting to us. These include:


  • Remanufacturing and comprehensive refurbishment help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 79% - 99% in appropriate sectors


  • comprehensive refurbishing saves 82%- 99% raw material requirement compared to new production


  • refurbishment results in 69% - 85% less energy use and related emissions compared to the linear process of take, make, waste.


Yet, despite the many benefits to wider society, and the fact that as a species we are running out of raw materials, the report stated that society is barely scratching the surface of the potential benefits of remanufacturing and quality refurbishment:

“Although current [Value Retention Process} VRP adoption remains low, with remanufacturing accounting for ~2% of production in the USA and the EU, it is estimated that as much as 41% of the aggregated manufacturing GDP for these sample economies are potentially VRP-appropriate,” according to the authors of the report.


The report suggests several ways of increasing uptake of value retention processes, which include partnering research institutes, developing knowledge sharing networks and instituting workforce training programs. Although this advice was directed at policymakers, as an established and growing company in the remanufacturer and refurbishment sector, we can testify that it makes good business practice too. Learning, researching, developing and sharing knowledge is ingrained in our company DNA and is a big reason why we are able to offer such high-quality products and services to our customers.


The report outlined the benefits of value retention processes on a social level to policymakers, saying that it delivered product to a much wider range of consumers:

“VRPs are not intended as replacements for new products, and... may serve to enable growth opportunities… by targeting and engaging new, previously untapped, market segments.”

It suggested that public procurement could lead by example in adopting these processes. Nowhere is this more true than in the use of quality refurbished servers, storage and networking. With Google being public about deploying a high proportion of refurbished components and remanufactured servers, the case has already been made for these kinds of products to become mainstream. Since the public sector is one of the largest consumers of servers, the benefits it could bring in doing so are huge.

Techbuyer is living proof that the circular economy works as a profitable option by providing jobs in countries across the globe. We have grown year on year since 2005 and have developed from a staff of two people to five offices in four countries, covering three continents. Part of our success is due to excellent customer service and dedication. However, it is also due to having an outstanding product. When you bring something to market that offers dramatic cost reductions without compromise on performance, and which benefits the environment and wider society, there is always going to be high uptake.