Équiterre has taken on a new area of focus, unveiling Canada’s first-ever study on obsolescence and consumer tendencies to prematurely replace household appliances and electronic devices (HAEs). Conducted in collaboration with several partners specializing in responsible consumption, social accountability and the sharing economy, including RECYC-QUÉBEC, France’s Halte à l’obsolescence programmée (HOP), Option consommateurs, the Consumers Council of Canada and the Observatoire de la consommation responsable (OCR), the study reflects the views of thousands of Canadians.
OBSOLESCENCE – CHOSEN OR INCURRED?
A few highlights from the study:
- 80% of respondents purchased their appliances or devices new, suggesting a low propensity for reuse.
- 86% of respondents said that HAEs are deliberately designed to have a short lifespan.
- Less than half of consumers are conscious of the role they play in the phenomenon of obsolescence.
- Few respondents keep their appliances beyond what they consider to be their reasonable lifespan.
- Nearly 1 in 5 consumers can be described as being “excessive,” having acquired 5 or more devices in the time period studied. The typical profile is that of a man whose average age is younger than the other respondents (46 years), who is an owner and has a relatively high income.
- Only 19% of respondents reported making repairs to their products in the case of home appliances, compared to 26% for electronics.
- Marketing strategies designed by companies, such as promotions, loyalty programs and changes to plan features, can have a significant influence on obsolescence.
GIVING THE POWER BACK TO THE CONSUMERS
The study reveals a growing trend among consumers to replace products, which are often durable goods, before the end of their useful lives. This is not because the products are no longer functional, but simply because the consumer prefers to acquire a new product for technical, aesthetic or psychological reasons. “This study of Canadians’ consumption habits highlights solutions for putting an end to the throw-away culture that has seeped into our lives and become the norm,” explained Colleen Thorpe, Director of Educational Programs at Équiterre.