The riff: A durable aid to COP21 Paris climate talks

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As talks to create a new overarching accord on global warming roll on in Paris, businesses and consumers need to be aware that they can tackle one aspect of the problem without any political horse-trading.

Whether by intention or neglect, manufacturers of household electrical goods are emitting more greenhouse gases than necessary because their products are shortlived and thrown away. They and retailers could do much more to burnish their green credentials — and save money in the process.

According to Wrap, a non-profit organisation focused on sustainable use of resources, the average British home alone contains £1,200 worth of electrical and electronic equipment. Much of it breaks within a few years.

Consumers Wrap interviewed said they had been forced to buy new refrigerators, washing machines and vacuum cleaners because previous ones had rapidly failed. They indicated that they were willing to pay more for longer-lasting products with longer warranties.

Wrap estimated that extending the average life of lower-end appliances to match the current market average would save 750,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and reduce the bill for returns in the UK, which cost businesses up to £400m a year.

Consumers themselves could do more to keep their purchases away from waste dumps: by buying less in the first place, and repairing what they have, for instance.

Some companies are responding. Argos, the UK high street retailer, has introduced a gadget trade-in service for old tablets and phones in exchange for gift vouchers, for instance.

Wrap has signed up dozens of businesses to an action plan to lower returns by cutting handling damage and other initiatives. Reducing built-in obsolescence and poor production will be key.

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