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E-flood due to shorter life cycle of electronics?

Germany – E-scrap recyclers could be even busier in future than they expected, researchers at Germany’s Öko-Institut believe – not just thanks to the fashion for replacing electrical equipment for frequently, but because of a ‘remarkable increase’ in planned obsolescence.

′More and more washing machines and refrigerators break down within five years of buying them,′ the Institute claims. The proportion of equipment purchased in Germany to replace a defective appliance grew from 3.5% in 2004 to 8.3% in 2012. And the share of large household appliances that had to be replaced inside the first five years of use grew from 7% of replacement purchases in 2004 to 13% in 2013, the researchers note.

The Öko-Institut points out that in roughly a third of cases, purchasers of large products such as refrigerators and washing machines were simply motivated by a desire for something newer and better. Consumers are also increasingly eager to trade in their televisions for the latest models, although more than 60% of the replaced televisions were still functioning according to 2012 figures.

Between 2005 and 2012, the TV life cycle was unchanged at 10 years. When it came to laptops, however, German consumers were found to be buying a newer model in a quarter of recent cases because of a defect in their existing device.

A main objective of the project was to discover whether manufacturers are intentionally designing their products to fail over time in order to generate repeat sales. The Institute′s conclusion? ′Electronic product life spans are getting shorter.′

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