22/07/2013

Manufactured to break

It is called ‘planned obsolescence’ to the determination of the end of life of a product, so that, after a certain period of time determined by the manufacturer, the product becomes obsolete, useless.

The aim of this practice is the economic profit: at some point the product will fail, and force —although this is always relative— the consumer to buy another. And so on. This production system generates a huge amount of waste, causing an environmental problem, due in large part to the lack of proper management of these wastes.

Any product is susceptible to planned obsolescence: from a mobile to the clothes ‘gets old’. Although it all began with a light bulb.

This Californian light bulb is on since 1901 —Imagen Unknown Author

Before manufacturers adopted obsolescence as a rule, in the 1920s, a light bulb was made in June 1901 … which is still operating today, over 100 years later. It is located in a fire station in Livermore, California, in the United States. It’s so unusual that they have installed a webcam to see how this ‘anomaly’ still works. And it’s not the only one! There are more centenarians bulbs working, although not as long-lived.

This eternal bulb inspired spanish Benito Muros, president of OEP Electrics, to create a LED bulb that is never spent. Muros also began a fight against this practice of the current economy. He created No Planned Obsolescence movement as ‘a new way of thinking and doing things and creating a new system in which products are designed and made to last forever and they do not make us spend unnecessarily, and be more respectful of our planet’, as related by himself in an interview in La Vanguardia Journal in 2012.

As you can imagine, this new bulb has difficulty entering the market. In the same interview, Muros told that ‘the distributors tell us that it’s their way of living, and department stores offer us increase the price, to which we have refused. We have been offered a lot of money to not remove the market and death threats, which are in the hands of the police’.

The idea is simple: if the product does not have an expiration date, do not generate waste. The voices that support the obsolescence argue that their disappearance would collapse the system, as thousands of people will lose their job. The truth is that we are more than 7 billion people living on this planet. The average amount of garbage we generate each of us is more than 1 kilo per day, according to the statistical office Eurostat. That is, in one day we produce more than 7 billion kilos of garbage. Many of these wastes are not biodegradable, and many are also contaminants. The situation is unsustainable.

The documentary ‘Buy, throw away, buy‘, by Cosima Dannoritzer, discusses the issue in depth, and provides a unique solution: fix instead of buying. An interesting reflection.

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