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Issue June 2016

Obsolescence

Causes, effects, strategies

Editorial


Urban myths and academic analysis

Editorial by Professor Rainer Griesshammer, Member of the Oeko-Institut’s Executive Board

My first TV was a hand-me-down, acquired when I was a student in the 1970s. It was a 25-year-old black and white set and it could only pick up Channel 1 at first. To access the new programmes when ZDF began broadcasting in 1961, you had to buy a UHF converter. In those days, electrical appliances remained in use for a long time, new technologies and functions were slow to come to market, and repair costs were minimal compared to the price of a new product. Today, the average TV is only used for five or six years (first-use duration) before being downgraded: it becomes the household’s third TV or is given away or simply disposed of as e-waste. Any pangs of conscience are assuaged with the thought that it would have stopping working soon anyway. After all, there are plenty of articles telling consumers that “obsolescence” is built in by the manufacturers.

Urban myths – such...

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Urban myths and academic analysis

In Focus


Piece by piece

The Fairphone 2

At a time when mobile phone companies promote themselves by offering annual upgrades to the latest smartphone, the Fairphone 2 seems like a relic of a bygone age. The makers of this smartphone want their customers to feel a stronger connection to their product so that they keep using it for as long as possible. “We decided to create a completely original design,” says Olivier Hébert, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Fairphone. “We had a complex set of goals guiding us in this... more

Piece by piece

Faults, flaws and rampant consumerism

The obsolescence issue

Ultra-high definition and HDMI, smart TVs and 3D, curved displays and OLED screens ... each new generation of TVs offers an enticing array of features which many consumers plainly find hard to resist. The brand-new flatscreen is barely out of its box when along comes the manufacturer with a newer model that looks even shinier than the last. Bigger, faster, more high-definition ... at knock-down prices which shatter buyers' inhibitions. German households generally replace their... more

Faults, flaws and rampant consumerism

A task for the whole of society

Anti-obsolescence strategies

The useful life of electrical and electronic devices is shortening, according to the Oeko-Institut's latest obsolescence study, which also draws attention to the negative impacts on people and the environment. But whose task is it to take action? Is it down to policy-makers to set minimum product standards? Should manufacturers step up and offer high-quality durable products? Or should consumers refuse to buy cheap appliances that develop faults very quickly? The answer, as the... more

A task for the whole of society

Throwing out the throwaway society

Guest article by Hugo-Maria Schally

On 2 December 2015, the European Commission adopted an ambitious package of measures to stimulate Europe's transition towards a circular economy. To ensure sustainable growth for the EU, we have to use our resources in a smarter, more sustainable way. It is clear that the linear model of economic growth is no longer suited for the needs of today's modern societies in a globalised world. We cannot build our future on a "take-make-dispose" model. Many natural resources are finite,... more

Throwing out the throwaway society

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