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What is Sustainable Manufacturing?

Remanufacturing  |  MRO  |  Refurbishing

Sustainable manufacturing takes place in a factory setting. It’s manufacturing that is sustainable by definition and responsible by design. Think of it as an advanced form of recycling that focuses not on raw materials, but on the original finished product itself. In the automotive and commercial vehicle sectors, the accepted sustainable manufacturing term is remanufacturing. In aviation and aerospace, the process is called MRO – maintenance, repair and overhaul – and for consumer goods and electronics, refurbishing is the established reference.

Remanufacturing, and similar forms of sustainable manufacturing, is the standardized process of producing high-quality goods – a second time – by reusing materials and conserving embodied energy in existing products. It is “manufacturing with re-use” – the tried-and-true process of an environmentally-friendly industry that has been around for decades. Going forward, sustainable manufacturing will play a more vital role in the circular economy as buyers seek to reduce their ecological footprints.

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Common Definition of Remanufacturing

In 2016, six trade associations from around the world agreed upon a common definition of remanufacturing:

Remanufacturing is a standardized industrial process by which previously sold, worn, or non-functional products are returned to same-as-new, or better, condition and performance. The process is in line with specific technical specifications, including engineering, quality, and testing standards. The process yields fully warranted products.

Remanufacturing Associations Agree on International Industry Definition: European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), MERA – The Association for Sustainable Manufacturing, Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association (APRA), Automotive Parts Remanufacturers National Association (ANRAP), European Organization for the Engine Remanufacture (FIRM) and Remanufacture Committee of China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CPRA), Sep. 2016

New Symbol for Remanufacturing

“Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” has been part of the public lexicon for many years, yet it does not capture viable alternative solutions to today’s environmental challenges. In response, MEMA introduced a new symbol for remanufacturing. It is the recycling symbol with one extra arrow. As society drives toward a circular economy, the remanufacturing of existing products should occur before traditional recycling.

Reduce. Reuse. REMANUFACTURE. Recycle.

The Symbol is central to Manufactured Again Certification – MEMA’s quality process certification program.

Why Remanufacture Before Recycle?

Remanufacturing reuses materials and conserves embodied energy, making it an advanced form of recycling!


A mobile phone that's been remanufactured (refurbished) is still a phone – it's just gone through a manufacturing process a second time to return it to like-new quality. This process saves energy and reduces waste.


By comparison, if that phone were recycled it would be dismantled, the hazardous materials removed, and the glass, plastic, precious metals, and other recyclable contents would be converted back to raw materials, using additional energy, to produce an entirely new product.

View the video below from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for more details.

It’s good for consumers, the economy, and the environment.

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