We all know it. We own some electronic device and after the warranty has expired the machine breaks down. We come to the store and they explain to us that it is obviously better and cheaper to buy a new machine than to have it repaired. Well, it does not seem obvious to me at all. A system in which production is cheaper than reparation is wrongly designed. From an environmental point of view it is a damnable exploitation of rare resources of our planet and from consumer’s point it leads to unnecessary higher spending. Unfortunately nobody seems to care and thus relatively new mobiles, cameras, TVs, PCs, washing machines, dishwashers, mowing machines and other machines end up in the bin.
It is called planned obsolescence. Components which break down are put on purpose into the machines so that the machines become obsolete. This usually happens right after the warranty has expired. If components were accessible in the market, handy repairmen would be able to repair the machines. The problem is that these components are simply not in the market and that is why one has to buy a new machine anyway. In parallel to that there is also another type of obsolescence called the style obsolescence powered by fashion fads. While in case of technical obsolescence things simply stop working, in case of style obsolescence things are working but they get old-fashioned and that is when people start getting rid of them (remember the fast transition from old to smart phones?). This leads to massive transportation of electronic waste from Europe and the US to African countries where machines are dissembled, pollute the environment and threaten health of workers.
The consequences are huge – exploitation of natural resources, massive amount of waste, disappearance of traditional trades (shoemakers, dressmakers, repairmen etc.), worsening of health of workers with toxic waste, heavier spending for families and general distrust of consumers towards brands and products. It is surprising how little this topic is discussed. Belgian professor Thierry Libaert tries to highlight this issue in the EU. There are already some alternatives (self-help communities, repair stores) but it would be good to limit this planned obsolescence, extend warranties and support the repair sector.
I wonder how much will be left to the upcoming generations from our fast-pace time full of H&M clothes, year-by-year changing models of iPhones and IKEA furniture? Where has the veracious work and override from generation to generation disappeared? I fully hope that people will realize that we cannot ravage our mother Earth over and over again and that more things do not mean more happiness.