Of course, the plan is to increase sales. But this practice results in the consumer having to buy a new product to replace what they had, and to buy products more often than they used to. This contributes to waste.
Smart phones, printers, automobiles, and clothing are examples of products created with planned obsolescence.
When considering the life of the product, designers and engineers choose inexpensive and low quality materials versus longer lasting, higher quality, and more expensive materials. They also choose to allow repairs or make a product non-repairable (or non-washable).
Planned obsolescence includes style and trend decisions where products fall out of fashion and lose consumer appeal. For instance, a two year old smart phone is old.
There is planned obsolescence in the plumbing world as well. Toilets, wash machines, faucets, and hot water heaters that used to last 20 to 30 years are now built to last 5 to 10 years. Stylish bathroom faucets are consciously designed so that they cannot be repaired. Or, if repairable, the replacement parts are unavailable. Or they are made available for only a short period of time.
We’ve all experienced scenarios where it costs more to repair an item than to replace it. We experience this at Raymark when a faucet cartridge costs more than a good quality faucet. Or, when a customer’s 20 year old wall-mount faucet no longer has parts available.
Time and use will always cause products to wear out. But planned obsolescence has come to a critical head because the increased cycle of waste negatively affects the environment.
Designed to Last
Consumers play a part by choosing and maintaining the products in their homes. But, the strategies major companies employ play a larger part. In fact, the EU is discussing a potential ban on products designed with planned obsolescence. Companies could be required to disclose products designed to fail. As a result, the customer will know up front what the expected life of a product is.
One way to opt-out of planned obsolescence is to buy high quality products that are designed to last. Weigh the cost with the expected longevity. Better made products are often more expensive, but price cannot be the only consideration when we want to produce a world designed to last.