Older generations usually have a lot to say about modern times. The music was better back then, kids were more hardworking or respectful, or other things you could chalk up to the generation gap.
However, they are partly right when they say their generation made better electronics. Many vintage electronics still work today. If not, many electricians can easily repair them. You could probably find a decades-old TV or radio in your parents’ house in working condition.
The same couldn’t be said for many of today’s electronics, sometimes due to a phenomenon called planned obsolescence.
Planned obsolescence is a policy employed by manufacturers to produce consumer goods that intentionally become unusable within a short time. The faster people throw out the things they buy, the more products these companies can sell.
You can easily see this strategy in motion when you look at your electronics.
Smartphones only get a few years of software updates until you must get a new one. Phone companies usually release a new model yearly and frequently entice existing users to upgrade. If they break, you cannot get them repaired outside of the company’s service center.
Marketing encourages people left and right to buy the newest thing, or they become left out among their peers.
This strategy has lined the pockets of the CEOs of many electronics companies. However, it has also contributed to massive volumes of electronic waste (e-waste) that harm the environment and human health.
In 2016, a University of British Columbia report stated that Canada produces an estimated 725,000 tons of e-waste annually. Only 20 percent of this figure goes through proper recycling.
It is challenging to combat planned obsolescence on an individual level. Current economic systems still reward profitable strategies at the expense of the environment and public well-being.
Below are a few ways to avoid falling into its consumer appeal and eventually expand your actions into systemic change.
You could resell or donate devices you don’t want to use instead of throwing them away. This practice extends the device’s lifespan and allows others to use it fully.
If your device no longer works, try finding facilities that offer electronics recycling in Vancouver. The city regularly hosts reuse and recycling drop-off events to aid its zero-waste initiatives.
Advertising and marketing campaigns could make it nearly irresistible to join in on the latest tech trends. However, as a conscious consumer, it’s best to be discerning about your purchases.
If you still have a perfectly working device that performs similar functions, hold on to it. Buying and discarding electronics frequently generate more waste and are heavy on the wallet.
Some devices, especially newer ones, are harder to repair by design. They could lack screws and are held together by glue. Others have a warranty policy that ends if you have the device fixed outside of the company’s official service centers.
The time will come when replacement is necessary. However, if your device is repairable, make it your first choice. Many technicians could restore or even upgrade old devices for a smaller fee.
Individual efforts are reasonable to practice. However, planned obsolescence will continue to become a problem if manufacturers still do it and government policies fail to interfere.
Support recycling efforts and policies surrounding issues like the right to repair and extended producer responsibility. Join organizations that push for these agendas and encourage others to do the same.
Should planned obsolescence become the norm for mainstream brands, durable and long-lasting electronics might become a thing of the past. Awareness is the first step in stopping this from happening. Taking action is the next.