Pyramids of Waste

Pyramids of Waste also known as “The lightbulb conspiracy”

Pyramids-of-Waste

Pyramids of Waste – is a documentary about how our economic system based on consumerism and planned obsolescence is breaking our planet down.

Pyramids of Waste tells the untold story of Planned Obsolescence (the deliberate shortening of product life spans by manufacturers to guarantee consumer demand. The light bulb conspiracy is a theory that the leading manufacturers of incandescent light bulbs have conspired to keep the lifetime of their bulbs far below their real technological capabilities. This way, they ensure the continuous demand for more bulbs and hence, long-term profit for themselves.

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence.

Once upon a time….. products were made to last. Then, at the beginning of the 1920s, a group of businessmen were struck by the following insight: ‘A product that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business’ (1928). Thus Planned Obsolescence was born. Shortly after, the first worldwide cartel was set up expressly to reduce the life span of the incandescent light bulb, a symbol for innovation and bright new ideas, and the first official victim of Planned Obsolescence.

During the 1950s, with the birth of the consumer society, the concept took on a whole new meaning, as explained by flamboyant designer Brooks Stevens: ‘Planned Obsolescence, the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary…’. The growth society flourished, everybody had everything, the waste was piling up (preferably far away in illegal dumps in the Third World) – until consumers started rebelling…

Can the modern growth society survive without Planned Obsolescence? Did the eternal light bulb ever exist? How can a tiny chip ‘kill’ a product? How did two artists from New York manage to extend the lives of millions of iPods? Is Planned Obsolescence itself becoming obsolete?

Written by Cosima Dannoritzer

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