Natural Resources and Waste

Repair: deprogram obsolescence

Things don’t last as long as they used to. Our grandparents have been saying it for ages and we’ll continue to say it! Industry designs products with an expiry date. Why? To keep selling stuff and get a return on its investments. This is what we call planned obsolescence.

A lot of time has passed (from the 1920s and 1930s onwards) since mass production made businesses realise that manufacturing products of lower quality was more in their interests than making those of better quality, more comparable to those produced by different craft trades and much better for the people buying them. From then until now, planned obsolescence has been steadily sneaking into production process regulation.

Nowadays, it’s no secret: the objects we produce leave the factory with their countdown started. Of course we make useful things, but they’re not designed to last long. It’s partly down to being an innovation mechanism: it seems that we can only maintain research and development costs if we manage to get the same person to buy the same product time and again.

The direct result on the environment is a huge collection of out-of-date products (now rubbish), partly due to making space at home for the latest gadgets and partly due to the culture of ‘it’s cheaper to buy something new than to fix what I’ve already got’.

Even so, there are many alternatives to throwing things out: lots of small workshops, individual or group initiatives, social businesses and so on, which are all filling the niche for repairs. It’s not hard to find someone to help us fix our bike, upgrade our computer, find new readers for the books on our shelves or repair our oven before selling it to another person who doesn’t want to buy a new one.

There are options to increase the life of many objects that, in any other way, end up in the bin. Repairing is an intelligent choice from many points of view: financial, social and environmental.

And you? What do you repair and where do you do it?

Send us your ideas for deprogramming obsolescence (Google Docs form in Catalan).

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