Breathing New Life into Sustainability 

In the pursuit of a more sustainable future, innovative strategies for resource management have taken center stage. One such strategy that holds great promise is "remanufacturing." Unlike conventional manufacturing, which begins with raw materials, remanufacturing involves restoring used products to their original condition, thereby extending their lifespan and significantly reducing waste. This approach aligns seamlessly with the principles of the circular economy, ushering in a new era of resource conservation and environmental stewardship.   

Deciphering Remanufacturing 

Remanufacturing involves disassembling used products, rigorously inspecting and cleaning each component to assess their residual performances and features, and then reconstructing them into fully functional items that are equivalent in performance to brand-new products. This process demands both technical expertise and precision, ensuring that the remanufactured products meet or exceed the quality standards of their original counterparts. To be economically sustainable, remanufacturing requires a good initial design that allows an easy, reversible and non-destructive separation of components, as well as an effective, fast and reliable testing for the assessment of post-use condition of the products. Both technical processes and business models should be carefully analysed and developed to support this new actor inserted in the circular value-chains. By giving new life to used items, remanufacturing drastically minimizes the environmental impact associated with manufacturing from scratch and the dependence from foreign resources, making the local value-chains more resilient. 

Numbers That Speak Volumes 

The significance of remanufacturing becomes apparent when considering the colossal waste production and resource consumption of our modern world. In the European Union alone, approximately 9.6 million tons of electrical and electronic waste were generated in 2020. This figure highlights the pressing need for innovative strategies that divert such waste from landfills and incinerators, while also curbing the consumption of finite resources. 

Another important feature of remanufacturing is its cross-sectoriality. Looking at the example of Lithium-ion batteries, they are not suitable for automotive applications anymore when they reach the 80% of residual capacity (≈6700 cycles), but they still maintain properties that could be exploited for others second life applications, such as ESS for renewable sources, management of network loads or emergency generators, that require lower performances and could last additional 10-20 years. 

DeremCo: Spearheading Remanufacturing

Remanufacturing, as championed by initiatives like DeremCo, offers a pragmatic solution to the global challenge of waste. In the project, the circular value-chain is transformed into a “pull” system, where the requirements and specifications on the materials and components to be re-use are transferred directly from the demand side in terms of characteristics and functionalities and propagated to the remanufacturing and demanufacturing stages. This approach will guarantee that the materials and components obtained through circular economy practices are actually re-usable into new products that are demanded by the market, thus bringing circular value-chains at the same level of maturity of linear value-chains. 

By refurbishing and repurposing products, remanufacturing extends their lifespan and significantly reduces the need for raw materials and energy-intensive manufacturing processes. This aligns perfectly with the principles of the circular economy, where products are designed to have longer lifecycles, leading to less waste generation and more efficient resource utilization

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DeremCo project at the European Week of Regions and Cities 2023