Scheduled obsolescence: how to euthanize objects in our mass-wastage society

The vacuum cleaner is suddenly out of breath, the refrigerator is literally freezing to death, the washing machine is out of order, the TV set displays a black screen, the car unexpectedly breaks down…

Our everyday objects are hardly getting repaired nowadays and preferably getting replaced. Nobody seems to be incensed anymore when a 10 year old car end up to scrap metal or when a washing machine is washed out after 7 years of service.

After all… if all this was scheduled… I have pondered a lot about this, finding it strange that accessories of our daily existence have a surprisingly short life span. It seems that I never get my money’s worth. Don’t you find it irritating that the coffee maker or the DVD player stop working just a few days after the end of the legal warranty?

Since the Roaring Twenties, products are indeed manufactured to have a limited life span. The obvious purpose is to whip up consuming habits. However, what looks like a matter of logic and survival for capitalism, is an aberration: growth’s goal is exactly to… grow ad infinitum. “An object which doesn’t eventually wear out, is a business tragedy.” This comment could be read in a 1928 magazine. Today,  this kind of consideration is a tragedy for humanity.

Consume and be consumed

This mass littering is swelling up, polluting our subsoils and our oceans, destroying our environment and killing Third World populations. In Africa, wasting is an inanity. Throwing away is a no-no. Recycling material is the rule. Repairing is providing objects a second life. The Western outdated computers are poisoning Ghana but its inhabitants are tirelessly recycling our PC’s. Simply because our computers, our printers, our cell phones are not damaged beyond repair. They wear out for trading sake, because it was written in their chips. Consume, consumers, consume your life and your planet.

Some economists like French Serge Latouche advocate for another social model: degrowth. Unbridled consumerism goes along with natural resources’ destruction, degrowth activists are stating. Less consuming cannot harm anyone. On the contrary. Slimming down our carbon footprint and compelling companies to put the emphasis on products’ quality and longevity, as well as on environmental conservation, will certainly not harm our world. It will humanize it.        

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4 thoughts on “Scheduled obsolescence: how to euthanize objects in our mass-wastage society

  1. Hey Nadine,

    Let me just say that you write beautifully! I feel very strongly about the wasteful consumer driven society in which we live. Many companies do not stand by their products. I had a recent discourse with Kitchen Aid over an expensive food processor that is poorly designed and prone to breaking. I had no luck getting them to take responsibility. It sits on my counter waiting to be thrown out even though it is less than two years old. The image of it landing on the ever growing pile of garbage keeps me from doing the deed. I believe that recycling is like putting a band-aid on a huge, gaping wound. We need to consume less!

  2. Thank you very much for your appreciation, Annie. It really touches me. I couldn’t agree with you more : we do need to consume less. When I think I’m swimming against the tide, I realize that I’m not so alone and it all makes sense.
    We’re living in a world of abundance and overconsumption, yet poverty has never been so widespread. We’re overproducing, yet it seems that we’ve never been so unhappy. We’re heaping up, throwing away and our basic needs are not fulfilled.There is a growing environmental awareness though, and a will to come back to the bare necessities.
    I’m not that young anymore, though I feel I’m still in the process of growing and learning. And I just hope I will feel this way for a long time to come.

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