You are currently viewing Planned obsolescence: the Achilles heel of technological products

One of the invariables in technology is that it is always advancing and evolving, and while that is something very positive for the development of society, it also has a rather large negative aspect: planned obsolescence.

The expiration or programmed obsolescence is the default action of the manufacturers so that after a while the products stop working, in other words, consists of the useful life of any electronic device.

This phenomenon means that after a while users need to buy a new device, but this not only affects their pockets, but also contributes to the environmental degradation by creating more electronic waste that in many cases cannot be reused, in addition to the fact that the waste from these products is not biodegradable.

But why does this happen?

The author Vance Packard in his book The Waste Makers (The creators of waste) analyzes the situation of planned obsolescence, and determines that there are three reasons why this happens. The first of them is because the constant advances make every day a product appears with superior functionalities than the previous one, which makes the current one out of date.

The second reason concerns the quality of the products. It is very common to hear that “products lasted much longer before” and this perception is true, since it is increasingly common for it to be cheaper to buy a new product than to fix the one you already have.

Finally, Packard also talks about the obsolescence of desire. In this case he appeals to feeling of consumerism and the need to always have the latest and the best, when the product you have is still worth it. We see a clear example with the iPhone, where some users renew their smartphone every time the company presents a new model.

These practices are very negative for the environment, not only because of the CO2 emissions emitted by factories and the massive use of raw materials, but also because these devices are not properly recycled waste ends up lying anywhere be it the countryside, generating mountains of garbage, or even the sea.

Dreamsite// Mountains of e-waste

And although it is complicated, something can be done to combat this obsolescence. In fact, every time new ideas arise that can even complement existing ones, all with the aim of reduce the environmental impact and extend the useful life of these products.

The main problem is that users are not properly informed of the options they have, the first in what refers to the possibilities of repair and restoration of the products. In Spain, the NGO Friends of the Earth coined the term elongationand created a platform where you can find device repair, rental, and even exchange locations across the country.

In this way, when you get tired or your device breaks, you can find a store near you to give it a second useful life and extend the existence of the product. Another initiative that follows this approach is the Cradle to Cradle Certificationwhich consists of a new quality standard for products that assesses their safety for people and the environment.

Dreamsite// Recycle and reuse electronic devices

The objective of this certification is to eliminate the concept of waste and encourage companies to manufacture products that comply with the plan of circularitywhich consists of the idea of ​​designing devices with parts that, once they fulfill their initial function, can be recycled and reused in other products.

At the end of the day, the problem of technological obsolescence is much deeper and more complicated than a series of tools and platforms that help to recycle and reuse products. It is almost impossible to predict in which subjects and forms progress will be made, so it is very difficult to design technological products that will continue to be valid in 20 years, since by then, instead of connecting devices via Bluetooth, a system will have been invented totaly new.

Taking this into account, companies must be more aware when manufacturing, selling and repairing their productswhile users have to change consumption habits and the false need to always have the latest when what they have is still worth it.


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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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