UK consumers in the dark about eco-friendly home appliances

Added: 15th November 2021

The majority of British homeowners don’t understand how buying eco-friendly domestic appliances could help to combat climate change.

According to a new survey carried out by AMDEA, the UK trade association for manufacturers of large and small domestic appliances, Brits value their appliances and want to do the right thing for the future of the planet but are still shaky on the facts and how the two connect.

Almost three quarters (74 per cent) of people believe sustainability means ensuring new products they buy are made using carbon neutral processes. Yet nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of homeowners are indifferent to a manufacturer’s environmental credentials when making a purchase, the research found.

To help put people in the picture, AMDEA has launched a new Sustainability section on its website, which will explain to householders the environmental considerations that lie behind each phase in the life cycle of their fridge or washing machine. The content aims, over time, to clarify how essential appliances fit in with the evolving circular economy, their potential contribution to the 1.5C climate target and the net-zero home.

“For people to make the right choices now and for the future, they need to understand how their buying choices will affect our planet. Throughout their operations, appliance manufacturers are striving for carbon neutrality, making great advances towards sustainability, and we think it will help householders to know more about this to make informed choices,” said AMDEA chief executive, Paul Hide.

According to the survey, 80 per cent of homeowners would not give up their washing machine, even to save the planet, rating it higher in importance than their central heating (79 per cent) or their car (61.5 per cent).

Householders are unaware of the strides made by the industry towards sustainability. Just under half (48 per cent) believe manufacturers have made some progress, 31 per cent do not think they have made much or any at all and the remaining 20 per cent don’t know or are unaware the information is available. 

The new Sustainability section on AMDEA’s website puts into context the advances made using a ‘circular economy’ navigation. Here, by clicking on each phase of an appliance’s life cycle, visitors can find out more about progress towards carbon neutrality. These phases include: 

Production - eco-design, materials used and manufacturing processes. 

Eco-performance - use in homes including energy and water consumption.

Recycling and recovery or repair and re-use. 

Over two thirds of homeowners (67 per cent) claim to be much or moderately more likely to buy an appliance made of some recycled materials. However, even though nearly 40 per cent do consider a manufacturer’s position on the environment before making a purchase, knowledge of the substantial reduction in critical resources used during manufacture was very low. Nine out of ten significantly underestimated water reduction, which has come down by 61 per cent over the past decade, in large part due to the reprocessing of water used in production.

More surprisingly, knowledge that the energy efficiency of the average fridge has nearly halved (40 per cent) over the past decade was underestimated by three out of four respondents, even though this impacts on their energy bills. To put this eco-saving in context, practically all of our 28 million homes are running one, or more, fridge or fridge-freezer.  

Most respondents (51 per cent) wrongly thought local councils fund the recycling of appliances when disposed of, and almost 70 per cent were unaware it is the industry itself which pays for recycling through the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) scheme. 

For more on sustainability, visit the new AMDEA microsite HERE.