“Buy today, dump tomorrow” – this motto seems to apply to the consumption of many 21st century electronic products. With an increasing number of electrical appliances per household, the lifespans and service lives of these products are continuously decreasing, with fatal consequences for the environment. In Germany alone, around 1.9 million tonnes of electronic waste are produced annually, and the trend is increasing. Are the large electronics groups responsible for this, which can increase their profits by boosting demand through deliberately planned short life cycles? Or is it because the electronics market is changing technology too quickly and is under pressure to innovate? Or are consumer wishes and ever more rapidly changing consumer trends and fashions the reason why products are being used for shorter and shorter periods and disposed of earlier? Which levers enable meaningful interventions and can thus contribute to a more sustainable society?
The junior research group “Obsolescence as a Challenge for Sustainability – Causes and Alternatives” launched in July 2016 is dedicated to these and further questions. The aim is to investigate the reasons for obsolescence of electronic products and shortened useful lives and to develop and evaluate strategies for more sustainable product consumption at technical, social, socio-political and economic levels.
The junior research group is a joint project between the Center for Technology and Society and the Research Center for Microperipheric Technologies (both TU Berlin) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration. It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of the Social-Ecological Research priority area from 2016 to 2021.