Challenging “Planned Obsolescence”
A core goal of AELA’s Challenging Consumption program is to reduce, and ultimately bring to an end, the planned obsolescence of consumer products.
Planned obsolescence is an economic strategy to keep people buying the same type of product again, and again, in a saturated market. This may be done in various ways, including:
- designing products so they break or stop working within a short timeframe;
- making it difficult to repair or upgrade a product;
- convincing consumers that products are no longer fashionable.
Planned obsolescence increases our rates of consumption which in turn increases the negative environmental consequences of unsustainable consumption. Our production and consumption patterns cause plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans, pollutants in our atmosphere, deforestation, increased biodiversity loss, increased use of fossil fuels, and contributes to climate change. And of course, the declining health of our environment also results in the decline of human health.
Given the current environmental crisis, planned obsolescence must cease, and we need to return to a culture of making and using durable (not throwaway) products.
Governments, industry and citizens share a responsibility to demand and ensure products are created to exist for an optimal lifetime, to reduce the negative environmental and health impacts created by products with premature lives.
What AELA is doing
AELA is advocating for the reduction of – and ultimately, an end to - planned obsolescence. We work with other organisations in Australia to lobby for legal and social change; host information workshops and support community actions that directly address this wasteful and destructive practice.
What you can do - take action and demand laws that reduce planned obsolescence in Australia
Other countries are taking action to stop planned obsolescence. As part of its Circular Economy Package, the European Commission is encouraging the implementation of ecodesign standards to make products last longer (in addition to other measures). France has gone further and has passed laws that make the practice of planned obsolescence a criminal offence.
An opportunity to challenge planned obsolescence in Australia – Review of the Product Stewardship Act
In Australia, we currently have an opportunity to demand that the government takes action by passing laws that require products to be durable, repairable, upgradeable and recyclable.
The Federal Government is reviewing the Product Stewardship Act 2011 (the Act). This Act is the main law that the Federal Government uses to identify the responsibilities that Australian manufacturers, importers and distributers have to our environment and human health. The 2018 Review of the Act gives us all an important opportunity to demand tougher laws to reduce harm to our environment and human health. The Review includes a Community Consultation Package, and everyone’s invited to respond to the consultation process and share their views.
How you can contribute to the Review of the Product Stewardship Act
All Australians currently have an important opportunity to demand an end to planned obsolescence. You can contribute to the 2018 Review of the Product Stewardship Act, and share your views about planned obsolescence as follows:
- attend a public community consultation forum for the Product Stewardship Act review. These meetings will be held in capital cities in May – June 2018. To find out dates and register your interest, visit https://www.eventbrite.com.au/d/australia--australia/product-stewardship-forum/ ;
- make a submission to the review. Submissions are open until 29 June 2018. Your submission may be as simple and short as you like and can include a statement of support for AELA's submission. A final copy of AELA’s Submission will be available on this website in late May, please contact us via email if you want to receive a copy when it’s available.
- Have a read about AELA’s recommendations below
- And see our guide on making a submission at http://www.earthlaws.org.au/our-programs/challenging-consumption/planned-ob/guide-to-psa-submissions/
AELA’S Recommendations to the Review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011
In its submission to the Review of the Product Stewardship Act 2011, AELA is recommending:
- Mandatory existing environmental design standards to be applied to all relevant products made, imported and sold in Australia. These standards would require Australian companies to manufacture, import or sell products that are designed to be durable and exist for their optimal lifetime, and that can easily be upgraded, repaired and recycled where technically possible.
- Amend the objects of the Product Stewardship Act 2011 (Cth) so that a core objective of the Act is to reduce energy and water use and reduce emissions.
- The Product Stewardship Act 2011 (Cth) should state that in considering the environmental impacts of products, decision makers will draw on contemporary scientific knowledge, and use an evidenced based approach. Environmental impacts of products must include an assessment of the life cycle of the product, and its contribution to the cumulative impacts of pollution and resource use. Ecological integrity, Earth systems science and planetary boundaries should be explicitly mentioned in the Act, as the foundations for assessing environmental impacts of products.
- The Product Stewardship Act 2011 (Cth) should state that in considering the environmental impacts of products, decision makers recognise the rights of nature to exist, thrive, evolve and regenerate, and will assess the cumulative impacts of products on the ecological integrity and health of the natural world.
AELA’s proposed changes to the Act would strengthen the requirements placed on manufacturers and importers in Australia, and give consumers a stronger legal foundation for taking action under the Australian Consumer Law when products break or unable to be repaired.
Other actions you can take
In addition to contributing to the Review of the Act, you can take other action to reduce the impact of planned obsolescence:
- resist the temptation to upgrade perfectly working products;
- consider the hierarchy of actions below:
- refuse products you don’t need;
- reduce the amount of products you buy:
- repair your products where it is safe and possible to do so; and finally
- recycle or upcycle products where possible.
For more information, email: email@example.com.
 Schandl, H., Fischer-Kowalski, M., West, J., Giljum, S., Dittrich, M., Eisenmenger, N., Geschke, A., Lieber, M., Wieland, H., Schaffartzik, A., Krausmann, F., Gierlinger, S., Hosking, K., Lenzen, M., Tanikawa, H., Miatto, A. and Fishman, T., “Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity: Assessment Report for the UNEP International Resource Panel”, p18, United Nations Environment Programme, 2016.
 Pruss-Ustun. A., Wolf. J., Corvalan. C., Bos. R., and Neira. M., “Preventing Disease Through Healthy Environments: A global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks”, World Health Organisation, 2016, accessed at http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/204585/9789241565196_eng.pdf;jsessionid=9B06453EB77AAF1308F05176010D95EA?sequence=1 on 5 April 2018.
 See European Commission, “European Commission Fact Sheet Circular Economy Package: Questions and Answers”, 2 December 2015, accessed at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-6204_en.htm on 5 April 2018 and Article 99, Projet de Loi: relatif a` la transition energetique pour la croissance verte, accessed at http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/ta/ta0575.asp on 5 April 2018.