Throw away society?

I’ve previously mentioned about the idea of make do and mend and how it’s been replaced by a disposable culture. Home users of products are even called “Consumers”. Thanks to the IET, I now know that Wall Street bankers are at least partly to blame.

Back in the 1920s, Paul Mazur from Lehman Brothers suggested that, “People must be trained to desire and want new things even before the old are entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality. Man’s desire must overshadow his needs”, “If what had filled the consume market yesterday could only be made obsolete today, that a whole market would be again available tomorrow.” This idea was implemented by General Motors in 1924 as “dynamic obsolescence”, their cars were designed to be replaced in just a few years by newer and more fashionable models.

So what can be done about this? Businesses have been looking at things such as Total Cost of Ownership. To reduce this total cost, products need to be reliable, easy to install, maintain and replace. Is it acceptable that things have no user serviceable parts inside? If servicing was cheap and convenient, would many of us not buy a new washer drier but be happy to have a service contract instead to keep the product running for 10-20 years?

Products need to be compatible with previous designs. The recent example of this is the proposal for the universal mobile phone charger using MiniUSB. Moving the cost of disposal from the consumer to manufacture is also a way to encourage product designers to make things that last. The WEEE regulations are one thing that can help with this but fundamentally we need to move away from being consumers to be home users.

BBC World Service Series on Consumerism
Enough, Anti-Consumerism Campaign
Consumerism vs Frugality
Making things and the Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy

4 thoughts on “Throw away society?

    • Roberto Bergamo says:

      Hello,
      I have discovered your blog today, in this moment, not before.
      I am very happy to know another “strange and alien” like me!
      I am an engineer that from a baby was happy to repair things, and all of my knowledge and traings in many fields is aquired in this way. The school give me the basic but the pratical exercize without the hands is nothing!

      Is very sad and distressing to see this lack of manual experience in the younger generations, all focused exclusively on the virtual world, outside the reality of real life; this alienation also produces negative effects in society.

      The winning idea is that a new thing is synonymous with better: all to be demonstrated. We throw away too many things to replace them with others of lesser quality.
      I hoped that the economic crisis would produce an change on this crazy stupid way of consuming, but at least in my country this has not happened and more and more garbage is being produced.

      Many greetings from Venice, Italy…

  1. Roberto Bergamo says:

    I agree,
    this situation is very common, even for more expensive things.
    I think bringing something into your home is like a small adoption, really, and I would like to avoid taking home garbage as much as possible, this makes sense to me.

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