Since the late 80ies producers & retailers try to reduce the useful life of their appliances. … whatever it takes! To take action against this is quite difficult as you have to prove it. This is a drop test for the durability of smartphones. Recently we detect that with new designs like elevated displays even high priced models are failing this test. I could have had this TV set another 10 years. But due to new technologies, it was already outdated. With one year it is already old! Advertising with 4K, UHD or other technologies already on the market for half year or longer labeled as new … which is not really true anymore. Just being old doesn’t mean it is bad. Things can be used differently. Parts being designed to fail on purpose … I don’t believe that … I don’t want to … But I know that the quality of materials is lowered. Themes on Monday – Planned Botch Austrians – true masters in collecting electronic waste amongst the best in all of Europe. Only in Vienna about 8.000 tons of electronic waste are gathered in junkyards But why turns “electro” so quick in to waste? Consumers have multiple ideas to that question, Barely after the expiration of the warranty date K A P U T ! ! ! (broken) nobody knows why! There’s no quality anymore … and if you buy quality it is so expensive They want you to buy a new lawn mower every other year so after two years, it has to be … K A P U T ! Sometimes you have the impression this is done on purpose. There are reports on TV – manipulation of small parts like a little switch … it’s all about the money … buying new things. So many consumers believe those producers are shortening the lifespan of their products. This targeted premature aging is called P L A N N E D O B S O L E S C E N C E . An expert in this domain is Sepp Eisenriegler, managing director of “Reparatur- & Servicecenter” Vienna – R.U.S.Z Also at home, he is collecting devices … and the related experience. We can consider three different types of devices. Those which are reliable, long-lasting & repair-friendly Secondly, products which are currently tested to find out what is recommendable. Further, those which are simply too valuable to to be thrown away. Look at this toaster … just a small drawback a broken screw to manage the browning. But in my opinion, throwing it away because of poor production standards … or maybe “a so-called” predetermined breaking point would be a pity. This is our 35-year-old washing machine. Had we bought 5 years ago a cheap A+++ washing machine it would be already a case for disposal and this one is washing & washing & washing! Expected useful lifespans of more than 30 years are extraordinary – due to a study of the Austrian Chamber of Labour. It proves that electronic devices are used comparatively short. The shortest useful life is detected with mobile phones approximately 2,7 years. printers … 4 years laptops … 4,1 years coffee machines … 4,9 years vaccum cleaners … 6 years tv sets … 7,3 years and washing machines around 8,3 years Sepp Eisenriegler bought his high-quality laptop second hand – 7 years old – for 250,- euros. It covers all my needs – traveling to Bruxelles and back. Not available anymore nowadays. It will be available again but – my guess – not before 2025. That’s why I fly to Bruxelles – to participate in leading position the standardization commitee. It’s our task to develop standards on how to achieve the same use with lesser non-regenerative resources. The basic aim of our standardization work: What is necessary that in the near future in Europe only durable, repair-friendly & reuseable products will be brought to the markets. But the industry has other ideas about freedom. In their opinion, the EU action plan is biased too much in favor of ecology. With too many regulations research & development and therefore innovation will be restricted. But is innovation that important to customers? Due to the previously mentioned study consumers demand a significantly longer useful life Mobiles should last twice as long. The same with laptops & coffee machines. But also consumers are often the reason that products go to the bin earlier & earlier. Nina Tröger & Harald Wieser can prove that with a study OBSOLESCENCE … premature product ageing has more motives then so far assumed. Consumers are aware of the notion “planned obsolescence” and know what it entails. Therefore they lose trust in the durability of products Trust in brands is lost as well. Producers believe that clients want new products in always shorter intervals. Always the newest. Not using for a longer period & quick disposable. Insinuated disposable mentality and therefore they claim that durable products are not necessary anymore. Repair technician Konstantin Todorov, Reparatur- & Servicecenter Wien is facing this dilemma by repairing broken devices. Very often he is confronted with the question if repairing is commercially feasible. A cheap, broken device … for about € 300,- total cost of repair … € 200,- useless … Sometimes repair costs are higher than purchasing a new product. Devices for about € 1.000,- & repair costs of € 300,- Yes, if the device can be used much longer. Mr. Todorov is one of the few making home visits. It’s very likely that there are problems with electronics. If the washing machine doesn’t work anymore very often cheap electrolytic capacitors are the source of the problem. Capacitors are corrupted… for sure That is not a question of money! A couple of euros for three capacitors. Mostly also the neighboring capacitors have to be exchanged. A couple of euros. Other colleagues won’t repair that. They will recommend a new circuit board. But we know the problem and we will repair it. Konstantin Todorov installs now better capacitors and this gets the machine back to work. This repair is a stroke of luck very often things are much harder to fix. Often there are no or overpriced spare parts. and in many cases, things are simply KAPUT! For sure it’s on purpose … for example “the door handle” from experience, we know it as a weak spot. the new model comes … with the same door handle the same weak spot … broken also after 5 years The same weak spot with the new generation. It’s obvious – by selling many new door handles clearly, the construction is not ok. For the producer, it’s a good opportunity to sell a lot of spare parts. At the “Reparatur- & Servicezentrum” in the 14th district Mr. Todorov is busy with more cases. Over the years R.U.S.Z. became an important drop-in center for repairs. An ecological mission with challenges! As a repair service provider, we are confronted with twofold injustice. Purchasing prices are not reflecting the social & economic truth … products are too cheap. In relation to this repair costs are too high due to high personal fees, the company has to generate. A technician repairing machines on site making € 1.800,- after deductions, raising costs of about € 3.500,- for the company. Part of R.U.S.Z is also the non-commercial repair café “Schraube 14” Here consumers can help themselves and save repairable belongings from the scrap yard. … supported by voluntary tutors. Please connect these two to make the metal conductive With this device, I will measure the path of electricity nothing can happen … 9 volts … very low at worst I am “charged” 😉 no, no, I can show you – nothing can happen there’s definitely something wrong with the wire often it’s just a small detail putting things out of order Peter, that’s your domain, how does that work? though some problems ask for more than one tinkerer Assuming the cable break here wouldn’t it make sense to connect up front? We could cut the wires here … solder & insulate We have to try not to break it. You can experience that “kaput” is not worthless and that you can be part of the solution. Switches & similar easy tasks we always did by ourselves. that’s possible … just little things that was a little more complicated just dismantling the device was already a challenge but now it works again … and that makes me happy Repair cafés don’t offer free repairs by others but provide feelings of success of a special kind. especially considering the fact that not all repairs are self-evident. My battery pack is six years old and it’s not chargeable anymore. A new battery pack would cost € 70,- the whole device was about € 107,- six years ago. I was hoping that by replacing individual cells we could get back from 15 to 18 volts again. Watching this I found a very simple wiring. There are no electronics, the cells are all different. All cells have to be the same with this wiring. If we change one cell we will have the same problem soon again All the consumer devices have to be cheap in the beginning battery packs later will be expensive everybody is hoping the battery will last 3 years. after all the client has to buy a new one and finally, the industry is cashing in. “Schraube 14” is also an incubator for capitalism criticism. Economy hast to flourish but I don’t want to buy any other year a washing machine or anything else. Only to save the economy. That’s not how it works. Basically, we live in a free market economy. The consumer can choose freely from the products the market is offering. It’s now the client’s decision at which price which product will be bought. He decides what he wants to have. With many products, the price is an indicator for quality and useful life. Also the Association for Consumer Information and its German equivalent “Stiftung Warentest” share this point of view. With washing machines, we are testing the useful life. There is a correlation between price & useful life. Machines cheaper than € 550,- fail earlier. 1 of 4 fails already after 5 years. Devices costing more than € 700,- are more durable. 9 out of 10 last longer than 10 years. Washing machines differ a lot in relation to design and the choice of materials. This shows the inner life of a disposable-machine and here a high-quality washing machine. What makes the difference? Clearly, this one is made of plastic … this of stainless steel. But the real big difference is the bearing press-fitted in plastic. and over here a solid bearing embedded in a cross made of cast iron with the advantage that it can be changed multiple times whereas this one not even once. This washing unit – offered as a spare part – including the inner tub – costs more than the whole new machine. A commercial repair is not possible at all. Peter Knobloch is an industrial designer following the discussion about targeted product aging P L A N N E D O B S O L E S C E N C E Especially washing machines in his opinion are hitting rock bottom. With his students, he wants to design a very durable one Calling our project “The Centennial Washing Machine” the attempt to implement an absurdly long machine life deduces a certain number of aspects directly connected e.g. no need for spare parts for 100 years. Have you already investigated the weak points or about the parts failing most frequently and why? Partly we learned about shock absorbers respectively about the suspension of the washing drum They are often likely to fail. Peter Knobloch & his team don’t want predetermined breaking points like plastic shock absorbers with rubber foam destroying also the bearing when failing itself. And they go for a simple design to enable also artisan production. Whilst the design process it is very important to us that it can be repaired easily. Otherwise, 100 years of usage are not possible. With repairing it is important to have easy access over time it will be necessary to make replacements To pre-produce & store the needed spare part over a long period is certainly not economic. Therefore we want to go without industrial high-volume processes. Our first ideas were confirmed by our investigations. especially the bearings … turning the whole washing drum … having on both sides a bearing to stabilize … so no porthole in the front … less complicated spontaneous I wouldn’t know how to build a porthole … or the rubber seal. by tilting the whole washing drum … possibly the insulation will be more difficult again. Currently, no washing machines are insulated. One argument … allegedly … to justify plastic drums They are much better at insulation then stainless steel. The sophisticated expert would say: Use stainless steel and take care of insulation. Then both aspects are taken care of high quality. Repairing without dismantling is not possible. Right from the beginning, this needs to be addressed. e.g. by easily visible connections of parts. By that, designers are decisively affecting the useful life. Whether designers are responsible for planned obsolescence … They are certainly part of the production chain. Hard to deny … Why are designs changed with which intention? this has to be found out … Often it’s about the money. If you have to lower the costs from e.g. € 350,- to € 300,- then you can say “No, I won’t do that” and lose your job Not an easy question to answer with YES or NO. But designers certainly are part of the production chain. Effects of design certainly show up with TV sets. The look gets increasingly more important. Producers try to design even bigger & flatter screens like fashionable furniture. Caused by the flatness more & more technology has to be pressed into even smaller places. Causing a chain reaction with minor faults is easy. Then only the exchange of the whole circuit board makes sense. … or even the whole apparatus. Also with the fashion gadget mobile phone the motto “preferably lean & compact” is prevalent. The consequences of this trend are investigated by the Austrian Association for Consumer Information There’s not only obsolescence due to weak points e.g. owing to mechanical weak points but it is sometimes also caused by design. buzzword “smart phone” Here we are testing the stability of a smartphone using the drop test. Recently we are observing that due to elevated displays even high-prized devices are breaking very easily. This is my “prehistoric” mobile phone rendered good services over the last 12 years it was very stable & user-friendly on this side, there’s something like a joystick. and above all, with a few handles, you could easily change the battery pack. Meanwhile battery packs of mobile phones are glued within the body & hard to change. Firmly glued battery packs are discussed frequently. No later than the first walkman smallness & compactness are essential design features. As long as advertisement promotes even smaller devices you have to make design decisions where screws are not possible anymore & glued battery packs are becoming a structural element. Cellular repairs are often only possible with special tools. Smartphones are not replaced only because of failure. As fashion gadgets, they are often replaced although still working perfectly. 2,7 years of expected useful life amongst the shortest of all devices. This shows that life span & useful life are often very different. This is the basic question. What is NORMAL useful life? When is innovation strong enough to replace a product although still working. The product cycles are getting always shorter. Seemingly new products are offered although the improvements are not very significant. The TV set is also a trendy product being used shorter and shorter. According to a study on behalf of the German Federal Environment Office tube TV sets were used approximately 12,2 years whereas flat screen TVs only 5,6 years. Almost every week new TVs are arriving either from our own branches or directly new. Many of those advertised with 4K or UHD … which is simply the same respectively with new technologies or similar claiming to be new … which is sometimes not true anymore. HDR – 4K – UHD – LED – QLED – OLED Producers are working with countless abbreviations and word creations to market their products. My home theater system is like being at the movies Watching a 5.1 movie at 4K I have two speakers in front, two speakers in my back & a subwoofer watching a movie about a crashing plane it sounds like it is crashing in my living room behind me. but it’s just a movie. Purchasing a TV nowadays is not just getting a device it’s more like “obtaining an experience”. New purchases are often psychologically motivated. useful devices are replaced to be “fashionable”. I passed it on to my family although I could have used it another 10 years. But it was outdated – it was old. In present TV technology – one year is already old. Each year a new smartphone – like for new clients. That’s the promise of T-Mobile with his offer “JUHU”. “What is Herbert’s comment on that: JUHU” JUHU – Each year a new mobile phone – straightforward To present this as a joke is a clever marketing trick. It can be interpreted as a kind of excuse. To make people laugh about something what from an ecological point of view can be considered disastrous. This is a kind of “marketing trap” Like “if you don’t think this is funny you have no humor!” Advertisement is an important tool to increase the affection to buy. Meanwhile, it is more clever than ever influencing decisively the consumers consideration of a NORMAL useful life. The idea behind advertisement spots is to show in an entertaining way something basically possible. JUHU – each year a new smartphone is not part of all contracts – it’s more expensive. Clients consider this as their freedom to decide when it is time for a new phone not being subjected to the 2-year-rhythm. Essentially providers don’t care if you are buying a new smartphone each year. They want the prolongation of a contract – prematurely. To keep you as a client. with the same network provider. Advertisement is the easiest strategy to convince clients to change their mobile as soon as possible. Frequently we hear that these people are passing on their phones amongst family & friends Thinking that such devices – if replaced after one year – are being taken out of use. I don’t share this point of view. I believe these phones have a much longer useful life. We don’t observe that & therefore have any information. For almost 10 years the market for smartphones has been grown steadily – but now it’s over. In developed nations, the demand is nearly satisfied. The same is valid for washing machines, vacuum cleaners & small electrical appliances. The market is saturated. For the economy, the missing demand is a serious problem. Our system is driven by growth and since the 80ies our markets are mainly saturated. Since then producers and suppliers are trying to shorten the useful life of products that – in spite of market saturation – they can raise their revenues. Whatever it takes! Consumer advocate Peter Kolba has hints about collusions of producers and suppliers about the planned lifespan of products. It all started with a big European study for washing machines in 2015. Amongst other things producers were questioned if their machines would reach a lifespan of 10 or more years. In the specific case, a producer from Belgium referred to a list which he takes into consideration. He also sent the list and it shows in two columns on the one hand pricing and on the other years of durability – starting with € 200 for 2 years and then 3 and 4 years in steps of € 100 … up to 7 years subject to this list … nothing lasts longer than 7 years. Due to this, we filed a report to the European Commission because if there is a commitment to relate pricing to planned obsolescence this could be considered an illegal cartel agreement. Cartel agreements in relation to planned obsolescence Nothing new! In 1924 in Geneva international producers of light bulbs were establishing the so-called Phoebus Cartel. A famous collusion about the lifespan of light bulbs. the useful life of light bulbs in hours over the years In 1942 this collusion led to a lawsuit in the USA. Some companies had to pay high penalties. Unfortunately, this had no effect on the lifespan of the light bulbs. Exposing this is only possible by house searches, confiscations or by motivating companies to cooperate. For us, the only possibility was to inform the European Commission. The statement of facts was reported. Now it’s up to the European Commission. If there is an illegal cartel they have the necessary instruments to take action. It seems that both producers & retailers are targeting planned osbsoloscene. A small family business in Salzburg is showing a quite different approach. Business Founder Markus Fuchsberger likes sustainablity, environmental awareness & fair trade. Our company philosophy is the following: We are offering a complete package. We are not only a retailer but also a repair workshop. It’s always important to us advising the client even during the sales process: Which devices were you using, why is it broken is there still a chance to repair economically reasonable repair is always better then buying a new product. The repair workshop is thriving & became the main business. The repair costs are 144,- euros. I think this will pay off. The counter shows currently 3.024 cups. Which is not so much. With regard to the food sector observing bioproducts. Shop assistants are very well trained. They have a lot of knowledge … e.g. about an egg. About its origin – the hen – the farmer – the farm … and in the electronics industry? In general, consumers don’t care whether the product was produced in China at $ 2,- for the work hour if the workers get paid at all. whether production waste is taken care properly. The Dutch producer of “fairphone” wants to change that By producing a sustainable smartphone they want to change our mindset. How is it possible that we as consumers always see our product only in its final stage. not knowing its origin, its development. What is our position about what happens behind the scenes? “fairphone” wants to shine a light on the origin of the raw materials & how they are mined. Minerals from conflicted areas are avoided and with gold, they managed for the first time to cooperate with “fair trade” mines. People don’t know who’s behind the development, where things are coming from & where they end up after we don’t use them anymore. It’s quite complex. Retailers committed to transparency can change a lot. The retailer has to make the industry accountable. Questioning is necessary: Where are you producing? Are you paying fair wages? How do you cope with ecological challenges? Do you offer spare parts – for how long – guaranteed? Is there anybody I can call in case of warranty? If there are multiple NOs then we need to talk. If more retailers are putting these questions then a change of paradigm is possible. But complying with these rules is not easy. Of course, there are also products which cannot match such an approach. e.g. LED lamps coming from China What a lot of us don’t want intrinsically … Two options: you are not offering the product and you lose business until you are broke or you take care of a short delivery path through a local whole seller being able to provide a warranty. But sustainability comes also with a price. To make it affordable Elektro Fuchsberger offers renting instead of buying. If you rent a washing machine we calculate 66 months. 66 months – more then 5 years – you have a warranty. According to the price, we are calculating a monthly fee which won’t change within the 66 months. Included is shippment & installation The contract ends after 66 months and after that the washing machine is your property. The Repair & Service Center RUSZ in Vienna offers a quite different concept. Unlimited contracts are possible. Using instead of owing! An economical value on its own. Offering products as a service is an important principle of the circular economy. In German: Kreislaufwirtschaft In an economy being oriented by cycles resources are used as efficient as possible to enable a continuous boom. Circular Economy won’t stop growth … but at least it will untie our consumption of resources from our lifestyle, our habits of consumption. The downsides of our consumption show up in Asia & Africa where a lot of our trash ends up. Very often this causes serious health hazards for those who have to deal with it. Very often kids with their bare hands break up or even set these devices on fire leaking toxins like mercury and led. Millions of tons of electric & electronic waste in the EU are not disposed properly. Only a third of all old devices go to European processing plants. Electric & electronical waste contains a lot of rare & precious metals but only small parts are recovered. Regaining it is quite difficult as very often products are not designed very recycling-friendly. Many different components of a product are causing a quite complex recycling process. In Europe recycling is basically done by machines. Electronic waste is shredded, hacked into pieces. After that different fractions are separated to be finally recycled properly. The DRZ – Dismantling & Recycling Center – in Vienna is doing that manually not cost effective in terms of private economy. By doing that, this social-economic enterprise offers limited employment to job seeking people. The advantage of dismantling manually is obtaining very clean fractions. Whole containers full of plastic, boxes with only coper. Very few is lost. Dismantling by hand is the first step towards a high recycling quota during the whole process. Next to environmental-friendly dismantling the DRZ is also busy with upcycling – aka re-use. In a manufacture design objects like tableware, decoration & furniture are produced from waste. “trash_design” manufacture should show the possibilities how to deal with waste in a creative manner. Creating a new awareness: Old is not necessarily bad! Things used in a new way … exploited differently. e.g. portholes of old washing machines are turned into beautiful bowls used for purposes other than intended. DRZ is using waste as a resource. Turns trash into new products. Making a contribution to the circular economy the business model for the future. Being an optimist I can imagine that in 2025 in the European Union there will be no more disposable products also, no products which can be used only for SURPRISINGLY short periods turning into waste already after 2 years. Mobile phone producer “fairphone” tries to implement this vision already today by following the rules of sustainability. Production of a mobile phone is its biggest ecological footprint. Holding it in your hand the major damage already has occurred. Making people use their phones twice as long only half of all have to be produced. So our design enables a much longer usability. The concept of “fairphone” is modular. Different parts can be exchanged easily. In case of malfunction, users by themselves can replace modules like battery packs or cameras. “fairphone” has opened a new market for sustainability at the same time showing how much effort it takes to be really fair & sustainable. The biggest challenge for our enterprise is to unchain the creation of value from our consumption of resources. I believe there is a way to make money without the waste of resources. Also, consumers can prevent the waste. It takes nothing less than fundamental cultural change. The way out of a disposal society is a challenge. In the future, we have to contemplate “good life” if we really need all of that what we have. Causing concerns because everything fails sometimes recently quicker & quicker! and … maybe … finally, exit the hamster wheel of materialistic need-satisfaction. The first basic set up of the “Centennial Washing Machine” is ready to wash its first load. The prototype should be ready in 2019. Until then the EU wants to establish new standards to be one step further in the action plan of the circular economy. Let’s hope that the project for long-lasting & repair-friendly products in the EU will be a success!