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I’m inventing a new term, well, new to me, anyway.  I’ve started reading a book called “Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America” by Giles Slade.  I’m only 34 pages into it and enjoying it immensely.  Understand that I’m enjoying the writing and the information presented, the history of how we have come to planned obsolescence.  I do NOT enjoy planned obsolescence itself.

Slade gives a nice definition of the term ‘planned obsolescence’ on page 5.  He says, “Planned obsolescence is the catch-all phrase used to describe the assortment of techniques used to artificially limit the durability of a manufactured good in order to stimulate repetitive consumption.”  In other words, we’ve got to throw lots of stuff out and buy new stuff in order to grease the gears of capitalism.

Having grown up with “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” as I’m reading about how we’ve come to be a wasteful society, I realized that there might be a smart way to keep capitalism going through the continual purchase of stuff, while also limiting the raw materials we use to make that stuff.  My idea is “planned reclamation.”  This is certainly not a new idea, but I’ve not ever seen this term used.  [Strike that.  I just googled “planned reclamation” and found the term used, only it seems to refer to reclaiming devastated natural areas.  So, what I’m doing here is expanding the definition.)

Those in charge of designing consumer goods should be finding ways to create things from which the raw materials can easily be reclaimed and made into something else.  Not only should goods be designed with this in mind, but we need to create methods and facilities for doing the work of reclamation, whether that be through our government-sponsored waste disposal facilities, or through company-sponsored reclamation programs (i.e. You made it, you reclaim it.)

Okay, engineers, architects, and other product-design minded people, on your mark, get set, go!