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to make a new or different product by taking components and materials from a product which has already been used
'… Shields Environmental recently launched Fonebak, a mobile phone recycling scheme, where you send in dud phones or take them back to a participating store … With Fonebak, metals are extracted and re-deployed; some phones are remanufactured to sell in developing countries; and casings are incinerated for power supply.'Oliver Bennett, The Guardian 19th October 2002
A book called The Waste Makers, written by Vance Packard in 1960, caused a great deal of controversy when it discussed the concept of planned obsolescence: manufacturing products that are only designed to have a short lifespan, thereby ensuring that replacements are regularly purchased and securing the economic success of the manufacturing industry.
the verb remanufacture has enjoyed a renaissance, as industries have begun to explore recycling strategies more seriously
Despite growing anxiety about energy consumption and environmental decay in the new millennium, the concept of short-lived, replaceable products is an even stronger feature of our society, exacerbated by fast developing technologies which drive our 'needs'. People typically upgrade their computers every couple of years, and mobile phones have an even shorter lifespan.
It is in the context of attempts to address these issues that the verb remanufacture has enjoyed a renaissance during the past three or four years, as industries have begun to explore recycling strategies more seriously. The Remanufacturing Institute provides more information. The term often functions as a participle adjective, as in remanufactured inkjet cartridges. The noun homograph remanufacture can be used to refer to the process, or countably in reference to products manufactured in this way. An agent nominalisation remanufacturer has been coined to refer to those involved in this kind of manufacturing.
According to Merriam Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, the verb remanufacture dates as far back as 1851, though the word's relevance to society is much more significant today, accounting for its relatively recent recognition and general use. It has, of course, been formed by prefixing the verb manufacture with re-, meaning 'again'. The same process of word formation has been applied in another recent coining on an ecological theme, the verb regreen, which refers to the activity of restoring an area which has undergone environmental damage.
This article was first published on 24th October 2003.