Designed failure

In the movie of Jacque Fresco it was stated that many products break down, fail or need to be replaced (just) after the warranty is ended. In secondary school a teacher explained this to the class and since then it has been sin my mind. It is true that many products are designed not to last long, unless you make it expensive. The main reasons are obvious: profits. Consumers replacing products is more profitable for a company than to release high quality, and thus expensive, products.

But there may be at least one positive aspect of this, in my opinion. Well not completely, which I'll explain, but there is something. I'm talking about innovation. Since most products (let's take a lawnmower for example) don't last 30 years, consumers buy a new one every 10 years on average [1]. After this they'll buy a new one, probably a new model.

But this new one is most probably be more efficient. It'll cost less energy to run, be more ergonomic and does the job more effective. This is because the technology in this lawnmower is way more advanced than 10 years ago. Breakthroughs, acceptance of new technologies (and its legal approval), and competition will lead to better products than before. And since the lawnmower isn't designed for 30 years, but 10 it will be replaced by a more efficient one. The old, less efficient one, won't be used and in the current society most likely to be thrown away. 

This brings me to the downside. Despite newer products are more efficient in the job they do than old ones, the disposal of the old ones is usually all but efficient. Since products are replaced more often, more products are required and thus the production of all these products is costs more resources. This is a major downside. While reuseability and recycleability are increasing, there are major improvements to achieve in this field. If the resources used in older products can and will be recycled this will ease the dependency on resources, while still being able to use the new more efficient products.

In the end, what bothers me are two things. The lack of corporate interest (because usually higher costs) in the reuse of the valuable resources of disposed products and the one sided view of most people to these kind of practices. I can only hope it will work out in the end.




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