What is planned obsolescence?
“Planned obsolescence is a business strategy in which the obsolescence (the process of becoming obsolete—that is, unfashionable or no longer usable) of a product is planned and built into it from its conception” is the definition given by The Economist in their article about planned obsolescence.
Why does something new have a shorter lifespan that something built a long time ago with lesser technology advancements? With the current technology and know-how, shouldn’t currently developed products have a longer lifespan than older ones? It seems like it should be logical, but it isn’t. Why? Because of planned obsolescence.
“They used to build them better back in the day” is a phrase we often say or hear when we look at something that broke just 2 years after purchase. We compare it to a former version of that same product that lasted 15 years without any problems and wish that we had the “old” version again.
You might have seen it with your smartphones, where the battery cannot be replaced and therefore you’ll need to replace your whole phone when the battery fails.
Planned obsolescence makes it very hard to execute the 3rd of the 6Rs: reuse. It’s hard to find people who can help you repair your product, especially the manufacturers themselves who will most likely give you a discount on a new product to force your hand on buying.
Who wins? Who loses?
While planned obsolescence is appealing to manufacturers for the bottom line, it is creating more waste and pollution and uses more natural resources and more of your money.
It could harm the manufacturers if consumers had the option to purchase more durable, alternative products, but most producers, unfortunately, use similar product strategies.
What can we do to avoid planned obsolescence?
Use the 6Rs:
- Refuse to buy: don’t get swayed by the newest trends. Advertising can be beautiful but our environment is even more beautiful. Think twice before buying anything and remember that there is already too much waste on this planet. Also, refuse proprietary accessories in order to be able to use them with future products.
- Reduce: Reduce your buying frequency by keeping your things as long as possible. Your phone battery might be getting weaker, your apps might work slower, but it still works, so keep it until you really can’t repair it.
- Reuse: Repair whenever possible or find a new use for your items. Also, instead of always buying new, unused items, buy someone else’s used or upcycled items. This helps to ensure that items are being used and reused for more of their useful life. Read about some fun ways you can reuse your smartphone: https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/10-creative-ways-use-old-smartphone/
- Recycle: Once it becomes obsolete, which is inevitable, be sure to recycle your item at the right location. You can find e-waste recycling information on your city’s website.
- Redeem: Always redeem your RP points because you deserve it!
- Rebuy: Buy items made from recycled materials. This helps to close the loop on sustainability by ensuring that the recycled materials are used to create new items.