Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

EMF Studies

22 September 2012

Apple: Champion of Programmed Obsolescence

With iPhone 5, 4S would become obsolete
(Itsuo Inouye/SIPA)
The dark side of the new iPhone 5 : the programmed obsolescence of this device which has a disastrous impact on the planet. 

Apple’s iPhone 5: We Demand a Law Against Programmed Obsolescence of This Device 
by Martine Laplante, President of “Amis de la Terre” (Friends of the Earth), Le Plus du Nouvel Observateur, 13 September 2012. Edited by Lisa Beaujour working with Henri Rouillier. Translated from French.

LE PLUS. Apple unveiled its new iPhone 5 Wednesday evening during a Keynote. Yet another model, sighs the association “Amis de la Terre”, which is alarmed by the disastrous consequences for the planet of products which are everthing but lasting. 

HIGH-TECH. 13.3 million smartphones, 3.4 million tablets sold in France just in 2012! Appearing less than 5 years ago, these devices have imposed themselves on the market and into our lives. Advertised and marketed as indispensable, these electronic gadgets have an environmental impact that is inversely proportional to their size. Gold, silver, cobalt, tantalum or rare earths are necessary for their production. 

Under the pressure of growing international demand, projects for the opening of new mines are multiplying in countries of the South bringing with it a procession of consequences: displacement of communities, water pollution, destruction of ecosystems…Instead of seeking to limit this demand, Europe elaborates strategies for ensuring security of access to natural resources and puts pressure on China in the World Trade Organization to constrain exportation of too many rare earths.

The negative consequences of these gadgets are also human. Damage to workers’ dignity in the sector of high-tech industry is common. The company Foxconn, a major sub-contractor in the electronics sector, has sadly become famous for its scandalous practices in terms of worker rights. This constant pressure on the environment and labor is not the only result of the race to innovate and produce profits for Apple, Samsung and their competitors.

Why not repair, why not re-use ?
Champion of programmed obsolescence, Apple innovates regularly in order to master the life cycle of its products: impossibility of dismounting the battery and updating the operating system for the oldest models, spare parts which change with each generation. With three categories of iPads in 2 years and six of iPhones in 5 years, Apple’s products become rapidly obsolete. 

The brand, which in the past was revolutionary, benefits from an aura and radiance which allows it to impose its style on the entire high-tech sector. The cycles that it imposes, however, will come to an end because our resources are limited. A heavy burden which also leaves behind tons of waste.

As fast as they are purchased, our possessions are equally quickly thrown away no matter what brand : the argument for durability no longer applies;  esthetics and trends dominate. Finally, how many of these very coveted objects finish in a drawer – as do 37% of our cell phones – worse, in our wastecans?  Reusing our waste can only be a solution if the rate of recycling of our electric devices is between 50 and 90%.

Change the law to fight against this harm
Solutions exist for consuming differently : give a second life to our products, have them repaired rather than throw them away, support repair persons and valorize their expertise for a socially worthwhile economy which preserves jobs and the environment. 

In order to move towards a sustainable society which would allow reduction of our pressure on natural resources and arrive at a more equitable sharing of resources between all human beings, « Amis de la Terre » appeals to parliamentarians and senators to put an end to the environmental and social aberration which constitutes programmed obsolescence.

In the face of the collective and irresponsible indifference of these companies, only legislation would satisfy the general interest. “Amis de la Terre” requests the adoption of a law to prolong the length of the guaranty from 2 to 10 years on consumer goods, in order to impose producers to place on the market products that could be repaired and to guarantee the availability of spare parts to facilitate repair during the ten years following purchase of the item.

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