The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) called the EU policy makers to impose a total ban on planned obsolescence.
According to the EESC, stopping planned obsolescence will enhance sustainable development in the EU, create more jobs and improve consumer protection. Products of planned obsolescence have a limited service-life. Bulbs that burn out after a certain time, batteries that run out within a set period or clothes that quickly fall out of fashion are just a few examples of such products. The need to replace those products, has a number of damaging consequences: (i) the cost to consumers of early replacement of the product or dependence to expensive consumable items; (ii) the overuse of natural resources and raw materials, in contradiction of EU strategies; (iii) and the growing volume of waste. EESC report stressed that, planned obsolescence appears to focus primarily on designing products with a limited lifespan in order to accelerate replacement, and thereby production, cycles.
The opinion’s co-rapporteur and a member of the EESC’s Consultative Commission on Industrial Change Nowadays Jean-Pierre Haber said that obsolescence brings little if any advantage in terms of jobs. “Most of these products are manufactured outside Europe, by underpaid workers,” and stressed that “If we threw away less, we would have to repair more, creating thousands of jobs closer to home.”
Moreover, Thierry Libaert the opinion’s rapporteur and a member of the EESC said that the Committee “would like to see a total ban on products with built-in defects designed to end the product’s life.” According to the EESC member, consumers should be given better information about the product’s life and companies must make easier the repairmen of the products through the supply of replacement parts.
Haber said that EESC proposes a labeling system that would guarantee a minimum product lifetime. “Companies need to do a lot of research to guarantee the lifetime of a product and at present they do not do enough…Furthermore, manufacturers should also cover the cost of recycling if their goods have an expected lifetime of less than give years.”
Moreover, from an environmental perspective, Europe’s consumption of natural resources has increased by some 50 per cent over the last 30 years while according to the Committee, the rapid disposability of consumer goods has encouraged purchasing on credit, leading to unprecedented levels of personal debt.
Libaert concluded about the need to ban planned obsolescence. “Our purpose is to help improve confidence in our European businesses,” and at the same time, the EESC wants to drive the EU towards an economic transition “from a wasteful society to one that is sustainable, where growth is geared towards consumer needs – with a people-oriented approach – and is not an end in itself.”