The German-French TV channel ARTE recently broadcasted an excellent documentary about the concept of planned obsolescence, its historical roots, the Phoebus cartel (i.e., how incumbents designed a monopoly to set an upper limit on the life cycle of bulbs), Apple’s case of non-removable batteries, but also modern approaches to it (i.e., building a timer into ink-jet printers that records the number of printed pages and gives a failure message after a certain limit). Unbelievable, but apparently true. Watch yourself here (in German, sorry).
The pepper mill (left) is obviously designed so that the container can be refilled and hence the mill be reused. On the contrary, the designers of the salt mill (right) thought differently. The top is not screwed on the glass container, but clicked onto it. Hence, it is designed to be thrown away. What a shame! Why do not regulatory bodies check for planned obsolescence before allowing a product to be sold in Europe (i.e., within the process of checking for CE labeling). I guess that is what we call „planned obsolescence“.
The concept of „planned obsolescence“ ist becoming increasingly relevant. What is it? I suggest to read this short 2009 article that appeared in The Economist.
Recently, the German government and particularly the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) announced to launch a first systematic study on planned obsolescence within electical products in Germany. The study is to be carried out by the Ökoinstitut and the University of Bonn and we can await the results in 2015. More information can be found here.