TED Conversations

  • MR T
  • Bristol
  • United Kingdom

This conversation is closed.

Why doesn't my stuff last?

As I understand the value of products that I own does not represent the cost at which the manufacturing of that product affects the environment and depletes the finite resources used in its making. For the purpose of this question the pricing at which a product could be valued, if its impacts are taken into account can be known as the 'true' cost.

If this 'true cost' was implemented in government regulations upon the private sector it would change society drastically, manufacturers would have incentive to produce more durable items and consumers would consume less.

Given the current state of the environment this problem is one that I believe needs addressing urgently. I've given it some thought and have come up with some potential ramifications of introducing such a thing into society as it is (here in England). It would be great to hear any thoughts you have on the matter.

Thanks

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    Apr 20 2011: My theory is that Staples are crap today. No wait, stay with me...When I was kid I never remember a stapler jamming every other go or staples bending out of shape with ten pieces of paper. It strikes me that today we have shaved off the amount of cheese which goes on a pizza, the amount of weight in a piece of paper and the content of chocolate in a bar, all in the name of profit. I know this to be true as I spent ten years of my life in the Pizza Business and watched as price wars took over in the name of profit and the loss of quality. So it is hardly a wonder that the DVD Player is made of crap with the idea that it can be replaced for next to nothing. Remember when VHS Tapes of Movies were $75 and when a VHS Player cost hundreds? I remember spending $210 on a VHS Player in1984, it lasted ten years and I had it repaired for $60, it then lasted another five years at which point it was not cost effective to have it repaired again. The problem was that the new one I bought lasted about a year.
    • MR T

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      Apr 21 2011: I'm 20 so I had no idea how much VHS tapes used to be!, what got me thinking about this is phones. Back the day (about 5 or 6 years ago) I brought a basic mobile phone, limited functions pretty much text and calling, its still working today, Ive sat on it rode a bike over it ext.. whereas my friends change their phone every 6 months because they break. The thing my friends have in common is the phones have a tonne of extra features (most of which I'd call unnecessary). These features are prone to screwing up and take up space, people want small phones, an easy way to get small phones is to shave off material where it can be shaven.

      I think its interesting that even in the last few years so many products show a trend towards a less durable construction.
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    • MR T

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      Apr 27 2011: Brilliant! thankyou for that, really interesting
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      Apr 18 2011: gdp growth does not require consumer spending. gdp can grow due to many factors, including investment and export.

      also, producing durable goods won't necessarily reduce spending. more durable goods cost more. the total sales value can be lower, higher or the same, depending on the item price.
    • MR T

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      Apr 18 2011: I dislike GDP as a measure of economic success, its a general measure of economic activity which does not take into account the expenditure of finite resources or pollution of the planet. So my viewpoint is, its not necessary for GDP to increase.
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    Apr 17 2011: i suppose you don't question the comfort these products give us. durable goods are not very handy, because we lose a lot if it is damaged. surely, the true cost of resources, and the true cost of creating waste should be calculated in the price. but the solution not necessarily would be more durable goods, but maybe more resource-efficient production or more recycling. it is just as good as more durable products. so better not tie the hands of the markets, and let it solve the problem in any way.
    • MR T

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      Apr 18 2011: With more durable products surely you are less likely to damage them and therefore less likely to lose alot, I agree that more recycling and resource-efficient production are good solutions also, however these without considering more durable products would simply be expending more resources and energy. Recycling for instance is not without waste, incurring both costs in resources and energy to undertake, the need for this can be lessened with more durable products.

      Back to my point about the 'true value', lets say the product is a fuel made from crude oil, the resource is finite and has taken along time to form. A particular amount of this fuel contains the energy equivalent in its practical use on a farm in fuelling a ploughing machine to that of 100 people doing the same job. It would cost a lot more to pay the wages of 100 people than it would buy the amount of fuel. I wonder why it is that fuel is so much cheaper as man power is a more abundant resource performing the same task at a slower rate. This is an example that I feel the markets has not solved, the fuel wasted upon goods that are not as durable as they could be was and is a precious thing. The majority of businesses are out to make a profit, if the biggest profits can be made wasting resources then surely that is how it will stay.
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        Apr 18 2011: i understood your point actually. for example we could tweak the current system in a way that state enforces hundred percent sustainability with waste and resource taxes. so far, we agree. but from here, we differ. you propose a solution, more durable goods. however, we don't know if there are other, equally good solutions. so why go too far? make those laws, set up the new rules of the game, and make companies include negative externalities in their balance sheets. but let companies make their own strategies when the rules are set. durable goods or something else, we don't care, as long as it works.
        • MR T

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          Apr 21 2011: ah, I understand what you mean and yes I agree that making regulations that enforce companies to make more durable products isn't the sole solution to solving environmental problems caused by our consumption, I wasn't trying to suggest this as the only one. I should have been more clear.

          My point here is that, if a company adopts better recycling and more resource efficient production and so on.. unless those processes are 0 emissions, 0 pollution, 0 damage then more durable products can only help... without defining that in law then there would be no incentive in many instances.

          If you were to make laws regarding this, If i am right you would make broader ones that do not consider how the manufacturing process are changed. what might these laws be, caps on pollution? In my view an acceptable cap would be one that would only be possible with all aspects of improving efficiency, decreasing pollution ext..