What is planned obsolescence?

What is planned obsolescence?

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This was created so that the consumer would be forced to purchase the same or similar new product.Most products are "programmed to die", and many times when these devices die it is cheaper to buy a new one than to repair the one we already have.

Planned obsolescenceensures high demandTherefore, companies have more benefits and a continuous supply. This greatly influences the development of the economy.

We havethree types of obsolescence:

  1. Function obsolescence, this type of obsolescence occurs when a more advanced product goes on sale, that is, with new functions.
  2. Quality obsolescenceIn this type of obsolescence, the product after having a certain time of use begins to show failures and a malfunction.
  3. Obsolescence of desireIt happens when a more advanced product goes on sale and people change the one they already have, just for style or fashion reasons.

Planned obsolescence affects consumers in various ways, economically and psychologically, we enter a cycle, buy, use, throw away, buy, use, throw away and we get to want products that we do not need.

This system alsopresents other problems such as increased waste that are generated when this phenomenon occurs over and over again.

When did planned obsolescence arise?

Society's consumption and program obsolescence are the basis of the current social and economic system. However, this system is not new and began to develop in the 1920s.

The idea was fromPhoebus Cartel, with large manufacturers such as Philips or General Electric. They agreed to shorten the life of their bulbs to boost sales. Thus, if the 1879 Edison light bulb had an average useful life of 2,500 hours, in 1925 it only lasted 1,000 hours. A figure that has reached today.

The planned obsolescence arises in the year 1932Bernard London created obsolescence seeking to polish itself at the expense of society. This term became popular around 1954 thanks to a speech given by the American industrial designer Brooks Stevens.

Products scheduled to die

Today there are very few products that are not programmed to dieWe have the light bulbs, which burn out from time to time and we are forced to change them, the printers that stop working, the ink cartridges used by printers, video games, cars, batteries and almost all electronic equipment.

The first bulbs to be sold had a lifespan of about 1,500 hoursThirty years later, light bulbs that had a useful life of up to 2,500 hours began to be sold. Shortly after they realized that with bulbs that lasted so long, sales were going down, so they began to sell bulbs that had a useful life of about 1000 hours, that is, shorter.

All these products have a useful life time determined by the manufacturer, we know that the ink cartridges, after printing a certain number of sheets, run out and we must change them.

People say thatCars made in the 1950s or 1960s can have up to twice the lifespan of today's cars, the duration of these cars does not exceed three decades. A clear example of planned obsolescence can be found in some car parts such as brakes, which after a while begin to lose their capacity.

Another product in which we can find programmed obsolescence is in nylon stockings, in the 20s these stockings were almost unbreakable, as they lasted so long, sales fell, since women did not need new stockings so often, thanks to this they began to sell the socks that we have today that break very easily.

How does planned obsolescence affect the generation of waste?

The useful life of products such as televisions, telephones, refrigerators and other products has been reduced, these products have polluting substances such as high levels of toxic lead. Many companies ensure an ecological maintenance of their waste and some companies even offer a service where they will take care of its elimination, however, many of this waste ends up in third world countries, in these countries pollution and this waste can seriously affect the population.

There are countries like China and Nigeria that have international landfills in which in 2010 we could find up to 40 million tons of this waste that do not have the proper treatment for its correct disposal.

Buy, use, throw away cycle

We have a documentary directed by Cosima Dannoritzer in which he talks about planned obsolescence. This documentary lasts 52 minutes in which it talks about why products last less and less, about the consequences of planned obsolescence.

This documentary talks about two quite important consequences, one of them is the pollution that produces these wastes, many of these wastes are disposed of illegally in Ghana. Another consequence that stands out in this documentary is the fact thatIf we continue with this consumption model, we will reach a point where we will run out of resources.

The documentary deals withmovements that have occurred against planned obsolescenceAmong the people who stand out on this point are the Neistad brothers, environmental activist Mike Anane, Warner Philips, Michael Braungart.

  1. The Neistad brothers started a campaign against AppleSince her batteries did not last more than 18 months and there was no way to change the battery to Apple devices, a lawyer interested in the case sued Apple, she won this lawsuit and Apple was forced to sell the batteries for the devices and had to increase the warranty time.
  2. Mike anane, is an environmental activist,created a database with the contact information of all the companies that send their waste to Ghana to be able to sue them.
  3. Warner Philips, one of the descendants of the light bulb manufacturers,created an LED bulb with a lifespan of up to 25 years.
  4. Michael Braungart, is a chemist who helped a Swiss textile factory create aBiodegradable substance for use in the manufacture of fabrics.

All the radical critics of Programmed Obsolescence have started a revolution we call Decrease, this revolution argues that we must rethink our values ​​and the economy and not only improve production processes.

We callDecrease to this revolution since in a limited world, such as ours,continuous growth is not possible without exceeding certain environmental limits, which we are exceeding in many aspects, for this reason the only solution that seems viable is degrowth, this is not exactly a negative term, when we all realize that we cannot have an unviable way of life we ​​will improve our life and that of the planet. In order to reduce the damage that we are causing to the planet, there is only one way out, to learn to live with less, therefore we must manage to live better with less.

Alternatives to planned obsolescence

  1. Sustainable design, designers should think not only about using environmentally friendly materials, or the process of eliminating these products, but also working on the meaning of using these products and creating more awareness.
  2. Social design, is when people create alternative products with biodegradable materials, that is, they create positive solutions for the environment.

What can we do to combat it?

The idea of ​​planned obsolescence is to make us buy new products, but before going to buy a new one we can try other things, such asrepair the product, change the necessary parts, if we protect our electronic devices With some protective covers we can avoid certain damages and this can extend the life of our devices.

We can recycle our products, many companies recycle the products since with the material of these products they can make new ones.

There are some products that do not have programmed obsolescence, therefore these products have a much longer useful life and will depend on the care we give them. An example of these products are the bulbs created by Benito Muros with a group of international engineers, these bulbs can last up to a life depending on the use and care we give them.


Planned obsolescence was created for economic purposes, to increase the sales of certain products and thus the companies benefit. This system is affecting the world more than most people think, we are ending the world. There are ways to have sustainable development that helps reduce the damage that we have already caused to the world, for this it is necessary that we learn to live better with less.

We also have some ways to avoid programmed obsolescence such as repairing and changing some parts to our devices, and in the case of some companies recycling our products so they can use that material to create new products, in this way we will collaborate a little with the problem of waste generated by this system.


Video: Top 10 Products That Are DESIGNED to FAIL (July 2022).


  1. Vardon

    I think this is the admirable idea

  2. Ronald

    Wacker, what a necessary phrase ..., remarkable thought

  3. Fecage

    Great question

  4. Allyn

    Details are very important in this, since without them you can immediately come up with unnecessary nonsense

  5. Hilel

    Not your issue!

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