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Planned obsolescence: Its impact on the environment

Planned obsolescence: Its impact on the environment

Have you ever changed a light bulb only to find yourself back at the hardware store one-year later and needing to replace it again. Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy a light bulb such as the Centennial LightCurrently residing in the Livermore Fire Department, where he has been a glowing beacon for 120 years, never having been turned off. Modern light bulbs can last for approximately 25,000 hours. The Centennial Light, however, has lasted over 1,000,000 hours. The old adage, “They don’t make them the way they used to”, rings true. And we have a business tactic to blame. Companies use planned obsolescence to increase sales. Products are designed to be obsolete after a set time so that consumers can upgrade to the most recent version.

There are four forms of planned obsolescence Software updates, contrived durability, perceived obsolescence, and prevention of repair.In each case, planned obsolescence results in higher levels of electronic-waste. E-waste, which often contains toxic substances, can leach heavy metals into groundwater, negatively affecting the supply of water. When heated, such as illegally E-waste burningE-waste is a major source of air pollution and increases in levels of particulate material. Society should be concerned about the many environmental effects of planned obsolescence and the subsequent increase in e-waste. This puts millions’ health at risk. Here are some common items that most people have purchased at one time or another where planned obsolescence might be observed.


As mentioned above, the lightbulb is an example of planned obsolescence. The lightbulb was widely adopted and companies tried to increase sales by imposing replacement costs on the consumer. In the 1920s, a group lightbulb producers came together to form the Phoebus cartel,”These companies conspired to artificially lower lightbulb lifecycles. This was especially true because a small group of light bulb producers controlled the market, which prevented any other competitors from disrupting it.


Apple releases a new iPhone every September year after year. Despite the fact that top models cost over $1,000, some people still find it in their budget to upgrade each year. This is because they treat the purchase as a subscription service, even though there are minimal changes in design or technology. Some wait for several generations before purchasing the latest model. This ensures that there are more noticeable differences before the price goes up. But what if Apple deliberately slows down older iPhone models to make it more difficult for those who wait to upgrade? In fact, this was the case when a Reddit user named u/TeckFire discovered that the iPhone models were being slowed down in 2017. PostedTheir findings on slowing down processors in the Apple iPhone resulted in a $113 Million dollar bill Settlement.


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COURTESY PHOTO: KARLA LAWS - State Sen. Bill Kennemer, from left, looks on as Museum of the Oregon Territory Executive Director Jenna Anderson accepts a Cleaning Up Pollution Award from former Publishers Environmental Manager Rod Schmall, as former Oregon DEQ Regional Director John Borden and environmental advocate Jerry Herrmann join in the Feb. 8 ceremony.

We’ve all heard the tale about the professor who requires students to buy the latest edition of a textbook. Even though there are only minor changes and slight modifications in content, textbook companies continue to produce new editions of textbooks every year to effectively eliminate the need for used textbooks. Imagine how many trees would be cut to support such an initiative! Planned obsolescence is a problem in the textbook industry. It also causes unnecessary hardship for students who may be unable to afford new textbooks.

Before making a purchase, it is a smart move to examine the entire product’s lifecycle. The company that builds the ideal product must be committed to reducing its environmental footprint and increasing its sustainability.

Contact Adrian Fontao at [email protected].

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