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A Look at Sustainability and E-Waste

The concept of planned obsolescence, or the idea of deliberately designing products to become outdated or obsolete after a certain amount of time, is a growing issue in the world of sustainability. While planned obsolescence has been used as a strategy to drive sales, it has had an undeniable negative impact on the environment and our global economy. With more and more consumers opting to purchase the latest and greatest gadgets, the resulting electronic waste (e-waste) has become a massive problem. 

Let’s discuss the dark side of planned obsolescence and its effects on sustainability and e-waste. We will also examine the various initiatives being put in place to curb this practice and promote a more sustainable future.

The Negative Effects of Planned Obsolescence

When products are designed to become quickly outdated or obsolete, it creates a culture of consumption. Consumers feel the need to purchase new products more often, which has far-reaching effects on the environment. While planned obsolescence has been around for decades, the increase in the use of electronics has significantly increased the amount of e-waste produced. Electronics and appliances have become essential to daily life, but their short lifespan has resulted in an e-waste problem. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), approximately 50 million tons of e-waste are produced globally every year. E-waste contains potentially harmful materials such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and lithium that can seriously impact the environment if not disposed of properly. In fact, e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world.[1]

The Growing Problem of E-Waste

The biggest issue with e-waste is that the majority of it ends up in landfills. About 70% of e-waste is unplanned and often gets thrown out with regular trash. This is concerning because the harmful materials found in electronics can leach into the soil and groundwater if not disposed of properly. Unfortunately, only a small portion of e-waste is recycled. As consumers continue to purchase newer models of their favorite electronics and appliances, the amount of e-waste produced is expected to grow. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that the amount of e-waste produced globally could increase by 50% by 2030, meaning that e-waste will only become a larger issue in the future. [2]

Government Regulations and Initiatives

To curb the amount of e-waste being produced, governments have started enacting regulations and initiatives. Some countries, such as the United States, have passed laws requiring manufacturers to bear the cost of recycling their products. There are also many nonprofits and organizations working towards decreasing the amount of e-waste being produced. One of the most notable examples is the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. This alliance, which was formed in 2018, is made up of over 40 organizations, including the United Nations, World Economic Forum, and the World Wildlife Fund. Their goal is to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced globally.

Consumers and Their Role in Curbing Planned Obsolescence

Consumers play a key role in the fight against planned obsolescence. When purchasing products, it is important to consider the long-term impact they can have on the environment. Understanding how long a product will last, as well as how easy it is to repair, can help reduce the amount of e-waste produced. Additionally, consumers can also help curb planned obsolescence by purchasing ethically sourced products. Ethical sourcing refers to the process of acquiring raw materials and producing a product in a way that is respectful and mindful of people and the environment. When purchasing products, make sure they are ethically sourced and made with sustainable materials.

Bottom Line 

The concept of planned obsolescence, or the idea that manufacturers deliberately design their products to become outdated or obsolete after a certain amount of time, is a growing issue in the world of sustainability. While planned obsolescence has been used as a strategy to drive sales, it has had an undeniable negative impact on the environment and our global economy. Fortunately, many government regulations and initiatives are being put in place to curb this practice and promote a more sustainable future.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our other blog posts on the subject of sustainability. 

To learn more about Mudita, take a look at our website and our other posts.

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