Built In Obsolescence – Videographic

Limiting the life of a product, a practice known as ‘built in obsolescence’ is a key economic factor in mass consumer societies, as producers rely on future sales for survival. The phenomenon reared it’s head in the early 20th century, when manufacturers of the traditional light bulb agreed to limit the products life to 1,000 hours, ensuring customers would regularly buy replacements.

This was enough to make the first transparent bulbs obsolete, when in theory, they were capable of burning for hundreds of thousands of hours. A last remaining example can be found in a U.S. fire station which has been in active use since 1901, although it now merely offers a 4 watt glow. Consumer groups regularly complain about the fate of other products, similarly made with limited lifespans.

The effects of the throwaway society can have dramatic environmental consequences. Used goods are often sent to huge rubbish sites in countries such as Ghana, when recycling would offer many advantages. Not only would it reduce toxic waste detrimental to human health and to the environment, but it would also save on the ever-rising cost of basic materials from which the products are made.