Planned Obsolescence: An Environmental Catastrophe

If you’ve ever purchased a product for your business only to find a modified version coming to market twelve months later, causing yours to become obsolete, you’ve bought from a company with planned obsolescence at the heart of its strategy. It’s frustrating and it’s an issue businesses and consumers face across everything from phones to fast fashion.

But it’s time to stop continually feeding into the linear waste chain. Planned obsolescence comes at a crippling cost to the environment as well as to your business’ bottom line and reputation.

Environmental and business costs

It’s not just product upgrades and modifications that fall into the planned obsolescence category.   Products that at first glance have an attractive price point, rapidly lose their value when we consider how quickly they’ll need to be replaced.  We’ve all heard the phrase ‘’buy cheap, buy twice’’.

Apart from the obvious longer-term financial impact of poor-quality products that often need replacing, what about the environmental impact of products with a short lifecycle?

Across the EU, 52 million tonnes of municipal waste was sent to landfill in 2020.*

The environmental impact of landfill is devastating. Rotting rubbish generates high levels of methane gas and CO2, which contribute to global warming. Toxic substances found in landfill leach into the earth and groundwater.

The good news is that, though there’s a long road ahead, the level of waste being sent to landfill is reducing:  since 1995 there’s been an average annual decline of around 4%.

This decline represents a shift in the way businesses and consumers think about waste.

Planned obsolescence can cost people up to 50,000 euros during their lifetime.**  It’s not just savviness about the impact on their finances that is driving a shift to durability and quality over cheap, throw-away items, however.  A desire to make the environmentally friendly choice is affecting decision making.  88% of consumers actively want brands to help them be more sustainable.***

Two-thirds of Europeans are willing to pay more for a product if it is guaranteed to operate for five years, according to a 2013 Eurobarometer survey, the EU’s public opinion agency.****

With consumers looking for greater sustainability in the companies, products and services they choose, your environmental credentials directly impact your business’ reputation.  Combined with the financial hit on re-purchase of products that aren’t built to last, to compete in today’s market, your company must consider sustainability at every level.

Buy better, waste less

But how do you make the greener choice and buy better?

Consider what green actually means

Recycled products that advertise their green credentials can often be flimsy and will soon be headed to the recycling bin yet again.

Choosing high quality, durable products for your business is a more sustainable choice.  Not only does it keep waste from landfill, the environmental and business costs of remanufacture and transport are significantly reduced.

All products play their part

It’s important not to forget that every product in your business plays a part, so when considering your sustainability credentials, look further than just switching out single use items like plastic cutlery or cups.  Take your waste management systems themselves, for example. Robust bins and containers that can be put through their paces year after year are just as important a consideration as the rubbish that they are installed to handle.

Check for a built-to-last promise

Warranties can be an important indicator that products are durable and that the manufacturer is confident they won’t need to be replaced.  All our bins come with up to a 10-year warranty.  They are constructed from the highest grade commercial materials, meaning they’re made to last.

Recycling plays an important role

Whilst durability is key when it comes to sustainability, recycling also plays an important role.  Since the COVID-19 pandemic, 50% of facilities are facing challenges in managing more waste streams due to an increase in the use of disposable products.*****  Making sure the recycling systems you choose are themselves durable and long-lasting is as important as making it easy for your business to recycle.  Our Slim Jim Recycling Systems come with a 10-year warranty, and their customisable colours and lids mean you can create a solution that suits your facility’s needs and signposts users so recycling becomes a habit!



*Municipal waste statistics - European Commission



****2013 Eurobarometer survey, the EU’s public opinion agency

***** Changing Workplaces survey by Rubbermaid Commercial Products, 2021


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