What is planned obsolescence

old mobiles

How many times have we said that old things lasted longer than now. And it is very clear that appliances lasted longer and could be fixed more easily than they do today. We now have a buy-throw-away loop. Given this situation, the concept of planned obsolescence was born. many people do not know well What is planned obsolescence nor what is its main objective.

For this reason, we are going to dedicate this article to telling you what planned obsolescence is, what its characteristics, objectives are, and much more.

What is planned obsolescence

what is planned obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is a strategy used in the manufacture of products with the purpose of reducing their useful life and thus increasing the frequency with which consumers must replace them. This practice can be applied to both electronic goods and household appliances, cars and even daily consumer products such as clothing.

The concept behind planned obsolescence is to design products in such a way that, after a certain period of time or use, they fail or become inoperable, forcing the consumer to purchase a new one. In this way, manufacturers can maintain a constant flow of sales and ensure business continuity.

There are several ways to carry out planned obsolescence, the most common being incorporation of low-quality components, use of materials that degrade quickly, lack of replacement parts or upgrades, and incompatibility with previous versions. In many cases, this strategy goes against the goal of creating durable and environmentally friendly products.

On the other hand, planned obsolescence has been the subject of controversy due to its economic and environmental implications. While some argue that it stimulates technological development and innovation, others criticize its negative impact on the generation of waste and the sustainability of the planet.

Types of Planned Obsolescence and Examples

technological waste

  • Planned obsolescence: Program the useful life of a product so that it stops working after a certain number of uses.
  • indirect obsolescence: A damaged product does not have spare parts to repair it and therefore it is unusable.
  • Deprecated default function: It occurs when a device component fails and the entire device stops working.
  • Obsolete due to incompatibility: In computer services, the product becomes obsolete when they stop releasing updates to make the product work properly.
  • Psychological obsolescence: The appearance of new styles of the same category makes the product "obsolete".
  • Aesthetic obsolescence: When a product that is in good condition is replaced by another with a more modern or attractive design.
  • obsolete due to expiration- The life of a product is artificially shortened due to expiration or shelf life, even though it is still a consumable.
  • Ecological obsolescence: It is reasonable to abandon a product in perfect condition for another that is advertised as more efficient or respectful of the environment.

A light bulb is just one example of planned obsolescence., but there are many others. There are different types of procedural obsolescence, three main ones: functional obsolescence, technical obsolescence, and design or psychological obsolescence.

For the first of the three, functional obsolescence is the most common and easily identifiable. It occurs when a product malfunctions because the manufacturer designed it to stop working after a certain period of time. Mobile phone batteries, which typically start to fail a year after purchase, are an example of this type of planned obsolescence.

Mobile operating systems, on the other hand, are more related to the concept of technological obsolescence, a form of planned obsolescence that involves incorporating outdated technology into products that are immediately obsolete and useless. In this way, the user cannot update the device in question, only him. Desktop and laptop computers are often affected by these planned recalls.

Design or psychological obsolescence affects what consumers think. It is a form of planned obsolescence in which a product becomes obsolete simply because it is obsolete. The world of clothing and textiles can represent a perfect case of design or psychological obsolescence. International brands are constantly launching new collections on the market, and fashion trends no longer last even a season, but are limited to a month or a few weeks, putting pressure on customers to spend relentlessly.

Environmental impact

scheduled obsolescence

One of the main environmental impacts of planned obsolescence is the generation of electronic waste, also known as e-waste. When products become unusable or stop working due to this practice, they are scrapped and replaced with new models. As a result, huge amounts of electronic devices and other products end up in landfills or are sent to developing countries for recycling or final disposal, which can cause pollution and public health problems.

In addition to the e-waste problem, planned obsolescence fosters an unsustainable consumption cycle. The constant production of new products and the rapid obsolescence of old ones require intensive use of natural resources such as materials, energy and water. These resources are finite and their extraction and processing can generate greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and the degradation of ecosystems, contributing to climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

On the other hand, planned obsolescence can negatively affect the circular economy. In a circular economy, products are designed to be reused, repaired and recycled, minimizing the amount of waste generated and reducing the demand for new resources. However, the practice of planned obsolescence goes against these principles, since promotes a linear “use and dispose” model instead of promoting the extension of the useful life of products.

Likewise, planned obsolescence can have a negative impact on human health and the environment due to the presence of toxic substances in some products. Many electronic devices and electronic products contain hazardous materials, such as mercury, lead, and harmful chemicals, which can leach into the soil and groundwater if not properly managed in the disposal process.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about what is planned obsolescence and its impact on the environment.

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