Ever wondered how products today don''t seem to last as long as they used to? Is your cellphone''s battery seem to give up the ghost after only a few years? Or is your computer''s hardware merely not cutting it anymore for the latest games?
Unfamiliar with the term, you may be the victim of something called planned obsolescence. Let us introduce you to the concept and offer some solutions.
What is planned obsolescence?
There are three main forms of obsolescence.
Incandescent bulbs are considered to be among the most prominent historical cases. While we all were quite resigned to the need to change bulbs regularly, this isn''t necessarily the case.
"Ever-lasting bulbs" were actually created early in the development process of the light bulb, but never saw the light of day, as to speak. This was accomplished by manufacturers in order to ensure the need for their products over time.
There is actually a single bulb called the "Centennial Light" in the Livermore Fire Department that has used it for over 120 years. While this kind of longevity may be beyond most goods, even the highest of quality, it does go to demonstrate that it should be possible to make products that last a lot longer than we have been allowed to accept.
Incandescent bulbs now have a life expectancy of about 1,000 hours, or about half as long as the average bulb in the early 1920s. Of course, L.E.D.s can achieve life spans of 50,000 hours or higher.
A variety of approaches may lead to planned obsolescence, but the most common are introducing an incrementally superior model or intentionally designing a product to only function for a specific time frame. Regardless of the method used, manufacturers risk that consumers will favor the next generation of products over older ones.
The idea of deliberate obsolescence is not only costly for consumers, but also affects energy and resources. In 2021, the WEEE Forum, which targeted e-waste, predicted a total of 62.8 million tons (57 million tonnes) of electronics would be separated from the Great Wall of China. More on the environmental cost later.
What are some examples of planned obsolescence?
The smartphones'' replacement cycles are seen in a contemporary fashion. While most phones should averagely last for five years, most consumers usually replace their ones every 18 months or so. Some of the components may even be specifically designed to prolong this time frame as much as possible.
Another motivation for replacing your old phone is the use of fashion or superfluous features. Adding slightly larger screens, an extra lens, and other relatively minor features are seen as a standard basis.
The software industry is also a major example of this technique.
Of course, new software is intended to include new features or file formats that are incompatible with previous versions of the same software. A similar yet related technique can be seen with computer hardware.
Computing power, for example, is generally based on Moore''s Law, which states that the number of transistors on a circuit board will double every couple of years. It''s predicted that it''ll last once the gate length of the transistor gets very close to the size of the silicon atom. That means controlling electron flow becomes more difficult, and manufacturing the chips becomes more costly.
Moore''s Law states that computing power has risen dramatically every couple of years pana then.
New computers have more computing power and speed than a computer that is only a couple of years old. Software is then developed that can take advantage of the greater computing power and cannot be easily used on older computers. This makes older computers obsolete for many complex tasks.
Depending on the type of computer you own, it may be possible to swap out obsolete or damaged components. However, this is not the case with laptop computers.
One way to avoid spilling coffee over your laptop''s keyboard is by no means causing some of its keys to be unusable. Although some laptops require you to effectively dismantle them to replace a single component, there may be a few exceptions.
Other industries may encounter a similar phenomenon, such as clothing manufacturing.
Nylon stocks, as an example, tend to grab, snare, or run overtime. These flaws increase the demand for replacing older items with new ones.
Clothing is also manufactured and marketed to encourage consumers to go out of fashion after less than a year, thus encouraging the fashion conscious to purchase new clothes, usually worn seven times before being removed.
This practice has also prompted interest among automobile enthusiasts. Newer automobiles, for example, will often include minor decorative or functional improvements on previous models.
Planted obsolescence may be triggered by government regulations, for example.
Quite a few governments have taken steps to prohibit the use of diesel engines (and eventually all combustion engines) while achieving net-zero and reducing climate change (as well as saving drivers money), this will inevitably lead to the need for consumers to replace their vehicles, for example, with electric vehicles.
This is not only wasteful, in a sense, but also threatening to create a serious waste problem further down the line.
Does Apple use planned obsolescence?
Apple''s products are some of the most famous examples of planned obsolescence. For years, the practice has been criticized, attracting media and consumers attention.
Through a set of anecdotes and official inquiries into Apple''s practices, it has been noted that it has, in the past, indicated that it has deliberately reduced Apple product replacement cycles beyond those expected.
Apple phone charger cables have been so bleak, resulting in the need to replace them more frequently than with many other companies.
In 2014, Harvard University professors found that searches for "iPhone slow" spike in the days following the launch of a new smartphone. This may be the effect of rising demand on older hardware rather than an intentional policy on Apple.
Apple recently settled a class-action lawsuit over the issue, allowing customers and government governments to pay payouts over the "batterygate."
Apple has publicly denied that it should utilize planned obsolescence.
Despite their reputation for this technique, and the above-mentioned settlement and lawsuit, it has yet to be confirmed that companies like Apple are involved in this practice as official policy. Other companies, including some of Apple''s competitors, appear to have also taken part in a similar practice.
Despite the fact that this practice did exist, some argue that it may have significant benefits.
Some have long maintained that a planned obsolescence was beneficial for the economy overall; others have argued that the strategy drives, in some ways, technological advancement in industries such as computing. We''ll let you be the judge of that, of course.
Is the anticipated obsolescence harmful to the environment?
Although there are a few concerns about the anticipated technological advancement effort, there is no doubt that unnecessarily increasing resources and energy to constantly make new goods must have a lasting impact on the environment around us. From the mining, extraction, and refinement of raw materials, to transport, production, and delivery of the end products, each step in the supply chain has an impact on the environment.
Electronics, particularly those that utilize lithium batteries or require other rare earth metals in their construction, can be quite harmful. Despite the fact that other, so-called greener products, like solar panels or electric vehicles, are designed to last longer than a few years.
These are also made in relatively small quantities and are designed to help reduce unsustainable dependence on energy and materials. This is a calculated compromise. On the other hand, planned obsolescence only helps to effectively increase the consumption of energy and materials.
It is also important to note that the supply chains for these products also provide employment for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people. However, does this happen at a low cost to the planet?
One of the biggest issues with this kind of practice is what happens at the end of each product''s life. In most cases, they are simply disposed of.
Electronics are particularly problematic. Every year, millions of tons of electronic waste, e-waste for short, are produced. In the European Union alone, 2.5 billion tons of e-waste are produced each year.
A lot of this e-waste cannot be readily reused and may be quite costly to recycle or reprocess to extract its constituent components. Anyone who has tried to retrieve some of the more valuable components, such as gold, will know it all too well.
The process of recycling electronics is incredibly dangerous. Most e-waste will be burned or acid-treated to obtain the most valuable materials. Both practices are quite dangerous for the environment, even in the finest-run locations.
For those parts that cannot be recycled, e-waste is typically sent to landfills or otherwise disposed of. Due to the fact that the components contain relatively large amounts of toxic substances (and are not readily biodegradable) these substances build up very rapidly in the environment and can leach into water supplies.
It''s also a huge waste of money, as most of the more significant component materials are by their very nature, rare. In devices such as magnets, flat-screen televisions, and batteries, certain elements are very common.
If practices like planned obsolescence continue to develop rapidly, and nothing is done to deal with the end-of-life component of the cycle, then we will quickly face a huge shortage of materials, touting causing a significant damage to many areas of our planet.
What can be done to overcome planned obsolescence?
It''s a lot of fun to see it.
One way is through government regulation or international agreements. This might be an area in which government intervention may be critical and useful.
The European Union has recently established the so-called "Right to Repair." This will eventually include a number of European-wide initiatives to improve the repairability of goods, including requiring manufacturers to make repairs easier, and measures that enhance the economic context.
This includes imposing restrictions on consumers who are required to provide the ability to repair their older or defective equipment on demand without having to pay incurred exorbitant expenses to do so. This will be accomplished by providing information and spare parts to "professional repairers."
Consumer behavior is one of the most important components of the practice. Until the end of the day, people continue to "put up" with short-lived goods, or succumb to the harshness of "fashion."
To this end, one of the most effective potential limitations is that consumers are to avoid buying new goods if they don''t want them. Similarly, consumers may be able to oppose proprietary accessories (like wireless headphones or special chargers). Official versions may be financially costly, but they may also be a source of inspiration for aftermarket solutions that address the problem of raw material consumption and e-waste.
Another strategy is to reduce the replacement cycle for items. Although this may not be possible for all products (especially food, etc), it is quite possible to keep your clothing and smart devices for a few years longer than you usually do. Always make your best attempt to repair or replace worn-out parts whenever possible.
Instead of buying a new one, consider taking a different approach to recycling or donating the product to someone who can correct it. When you come to buying a new product, consider buying an older, recycled, or reconditioned product.
What are some examples of sustainable technology?
Aside from the fact that some organizations, including some manufacturers, are beginning to take some steps to address the problem. Let''s look at the names of those who have appoint you.
1.Fairphone is a modular phone
One of the most interesting initiatives to reduce the impact of technology on the environment is a product called the Fairphone. Modular by design, the Fairphone has been developed to improve fair work practices and maximize recycled materials and sustainability as long as possible.
The primary goal of the system is to allow consumers to switch out obsolete or broken components with ease rather than require them to replace the entire phone. Most, if not all, components of the phone can be replaced, such as the battery, the aux socket, and the camera.
The phone''s gubbins is designed to be as straightforward to repair as possible. Each Fairphone includes a five-year guarantee, but be aware that you may keep items on-demand throughout the phone''s life.
2.Outerwall EcoATM helps you to properly dispose of your old e-waste.
One of the major difficulties with planned obsolescence is e-waste. Outerwall has discovered a possibility solution, which is the EcoATM. It has been designed specifically to incentivize consumers to dispose responsibly of their old mobile phones.
The machine analyzes your old device in situ and makes you an offer that may be paid in cash, bank transfer, or vouchers. All phones are accepted in virtually any condition, and you may also choose to plant a tree as well as get some cash. Two things for the price of one.
The company offers protection for your personal data and promises to ensure that all information left on your old phone will remain confidential. It is always a good idea to fully remove any personal data from your old smart devices before you remove them.
The Framework laptop might be the only one you ever need.
Framework, a technology-based business, is going to work together to help with the worst of planned obsolescence. This laptop was originally designed from the start up to be as quickly repairable and modern as possible. It might also be the only one you ever need.
Most, if not all, of its components are easy to understand and easily swapped out. They are also helpfully labeled so you can easily identify them and orient yourself around the computer''s inner components yourself - if you are confident.
The company also offers a series of free repair guidelines to assist out and has a wide range of spare parts available on their site. You may even customize the computer to your liking.
Add your own components, modify the operating system you''d like, or select from the company''s wide selection of products. The choice is yours.
4.Build your own computer
Another method to deal with planned obsolescence is to build your own computer. Depending on your technical skill, you get and build your own computer from the start up with relative ease.
This is not only great fun and rewarding, but it also gives you the option of quickly upgrading and replacing components over time. This is, for most PC users, like preaching to the convert, but it is really liberating and, ultimately, a great way to improve your computing power (and knowledge) over time without causing damage to the environment.
You may do this individually or employ specialist companies who can assist you.
5.Are you a victim of a "false economy" prudence?
Besides electronics, you may want to evaluate if you are falling into the trap of making a "false economy." While getting a substantial amount is quite common, sometimes (oftentimes in fact), it may be better to spend a little more on a higher-quality, longer-lasting product rather than a cheaper one.
There are too many examples to choose from, but it is often cheaper overtime to get something that lasts longer than constantly replacing lower-quality items every year. This also requires that you first pay for the more expensive item.
Shoesare one fantastic example. In the long run, it is often cheaper to pay more for a pair of shoes that will last for years than to replace them every year or less. Furthermore, more costly shoes tend to be easier to repair.
Shoes that are partially modular can be found in recycled materials to prolong their lifecycles.
You may go beyond purchasing fresh fruit or beverages, including grocery or other consumables. Purchasing fresh food and making your own meals will provide you with a significantly greater return on investment than buying ready meals or fast foods.
While it''s good to have the most recent and greatest phone, a "in season" piece of clothing, or a certain item, you should probably ask yourself if it may be better to make more use of your old stuff.
Who knows, there may be a whole new trend.