This report gives an overview of the concept of planned obsolescence and offers several examples of products and business practices which are affected by planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is directly linked to climate change as purposely designing products that stop working, works less well, or cannot be repaired before the end of its expected lifetime, is resource-inefficient. As such, attention is drawn to the environmental consequences of planned obsolescence and the conflict between the phenomenon and the transition towards a circular economy.
The transition towards a circular economy is crucial to achieving the goals set up in the Paris agreement to keep global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. The report gives examples of current legislation and business models aimed at solving the issue of planned obsolescence. This report also gives several recommendations on how to counteract the negative effects of planned obsolescence based on the problems described. The recommendations include implementing mandatory EU labelling on product lifespan, enforcing requirements to ensure there is a supply of spare parts, reviewing legislation, taxes and policies aimed at supporting smart product and business plans. Another option considered is the possibility of criminalising the act of planned obsolescence. Ultimately, the report concludes that a plethora of policy measures will need to be put in place and allowed to be tried and tested before planned obsolescence is criminalised as has been done in France. These non-criminal policy measures are preferably implemented on a European level to have the effect needed to influence manufacturers as national legislations will be helpful in creating momentum and raising the issue, but not enough to tackle planned obsolescence in the large scale required.
Carl Dalhammar – Associate Professor at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University
Mette Kahlin McVeigh -Climate Programme Director at Fores
Jessika Luth Richter – Research Associate at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University