The Impact of Planned Obsolescence on the Environment.

Hello friends I hope you are all well. Today I come to talk to you about a topic about which I already made a post previously in another community, but as it is a really complex issue with many facets that affect us all.



This topic is planned obsolescence, I previously talked about what it is and gave some examples of how it works in this post but there was a facet of planned obsolescence that I did not opine about in that post because it was not the appropriate community, but I will try to explain it here.

That topic is the environmental impact of planned obsolescence and some tips to combat it.

Now, before I continue, for those who have not read or do not want to read all my previous post, I will summarize very quickly what is planned obsolescence and how it works.

Basically planned obsolescence is a practice of companies that manufacture goods that seeks to create them with a shortened useful life, i.e. to be damaged in a certain time determined by them, this is usually achieved by making some important component with a defect intentionally, and avoiding to offer the option to replace that component or repair it.

A classic example would be the batteries or screens of certain Smartphones, which make them almost impossible to get so that it is more profitable for you to buy a new one. Or so they tell you.

Another way to artificially encourage consumption is to convince us that the product we have is outdated and gives a bad image of us, so we should change it for a new one.



About all these dirty tricks to make you buy more I talk in more detail in my previous post.

This whole process of buying, using inefficiently and throwing away to buy again has of course a tremendous impact on the environment, which is seen on several fronts.

Let's take the example of the Smartphone, to begin with this cycle constantly makes new cell phones are manufactured, every day more complex and expensive, although these seem innocent to be a little plastic and some metals, not everything is what it seems, for the manufacture of a Smartphone is an extensive use of materials known as rare earths, They are so called because they are oxides very difficult to obtain naturally in the environment and therefore the mining of these elements is quite aggressive and has a tremendous impact on the environment, to extract the minerals from the rock must make extensive use of water, which ends up contaminated with other metals, to extract a ton of rare earths are acidified 75. In addition, many rare earth elements such as thorium are usually obtained together with radioactive materials such as uranium, and when exposed to the surface, they contaminate the areas adjacent to the mines with radiation.



This damage is extensive and increasing every day, because lately more and more everyday products have components such as lithium batteries or digital memories. It is not a coincidence that the country that controls 80% of the production of rare earths worldwide, is also one of the most polluted countries and the leader in the production of electronic components, I am talking about China.

There is also the problem of the amount of waste generated by planned obsolescence, many times things that should have been repaired or should not have been damaged in the first place. As I mentioned in a previous post in this community, components such as plastic are not as recyclable as we are told they are, in fact, most of them are not, and special plastics such as those used in Smartphone or automotive components much less so.

And speaking of vehicles, when they usually offer us a new vehicle that consumes less fossil fuels it can be a lie, remember in the case of BMW in 2017 where they promoted a vehicle as more environmentally conscious and it turned out to be a farce, which ended in scandal and a millionaire fine. Here is a small press release about it.

There is also the issue of electric vehicles that they promote as environmentally friendly... but electric means big batteries and lots of electronic components, which means a lot more rare earths... with the environmental impact that goes with it.

So you see, planned obsolescence is a chimera that is hard to fight... because as much as we hate to admit it, it also benefits us all, supporting innovation and encouraging progress as I explained in my previous post.
But in case you want to take steps to try to break the cycle here are some tips.
Buy items with lifetime warranty.

Of course this may not be the best option for some but it is an option, some companies offer high quality products with lifetime warranty, which are relatively expensive compared to others, but you know you have something you can trust and will last a lifetime, some examples would be Rolex or Zippo lighters.

Buy modular products

I particularly like this option, with modular I mean products that you can exchange components easily and economically when you need to replace a damaged or obsolete part, an example is the desktop computers with traditional case, if you eventually need more RAM you buy only the memory you need and install it and that's it, this helps to reduce the amount of waste and consumption. In addition to saving you money.

Buy second hand products.

An issue that some people don't like, especially in things like clothes, but you would be surprised how many things in perfect condition that people are willing to auction, I always keep my eye near the bazaars, you know how the saying goes, one person's trash is another person's treasure, besides helping the environment you can save good money.

Try to repair before discarding.

It took several years and some accidents to understand why my dad loved cars from before the 90's and why he despised modern cars, he didn't understand why my dad made me help him repair his old 86 Ford f150 lariat truck. Until a couple of years ago, where at work I had to use several of those tricks, today I have more respect for that way of thinking, where the idea of fixing things before throwing them away prevails and that can help you break the cycle of consumerism. It applies to many devices that people normally throw away.

Disconnect from advertising.

This is perhaps the most important advice I can give you in this regard, nowadays there are advertisements everywhere... and they all invite you to buy more, buy new. Don't let it get to you, don't let them convince you that your 1 year old phone gives an image of you can make you break the cycle. I'm not saying don't buy something new once in a while, but advertising can push you way beyond the boundaries of healthy or environmentally friendly.


Controversial as it may be, it is bad for the environment due to the consumerist cycle, but there are ways to mitigate its impact and every day new green technologies appear, I hope this post will help you to learn a little more about it and with that do my bit to take care of our planet.
Any suggestions or advice please... I read them in the comments section. Have a good night.

Recommended Bibliographic Reference

[1] Como combater la obsolencia programada

[2] Tierras raras son esenciales para la tecnología pero su costo ambiental es muy alto

[3] planned obsolescene

[4] obsolencia programada