With a seemingly near-constant replacement cycle for electronics and home appliances, many of us pose the question, “Why have my grandparents’ appliances lasted for 30 or more years while mine need to be replaced every 5-10 years?”. The answer to this is multi-faceted.

Between the consumer urge to upgrade to the newest, flashiest cell phone or the refrigerator with WiFi connectivity and the drive by manufacturers to encourage consumer spending, we are coming out on bottom when it comes to owning reliable devices and appliances.

"It is both fortunate and unfortunate that we live in a time when technology is evolving at a pace never seen before," says Adam Shine, President of Sunnking. "One on hand, you have technology that can help make life easier by allowing us to complete the work of multiple people with greater ease. On the other hand, it is leading to equipment becoming obsolete at a much greater speed."

New & Now

As far as replacement cycles for electronics, the main driving force in this specific category is conspicuous consumption. Coined in the luxury era of the 1980s, this term is defined as the purchase of luxury items to show others you’re doing well. Or better known as “keeping up with the Joneses’”.

With new technology released every year, it is easy for consumers to see the newest phone model or integrated TV system and think, “oh I NEED that.” In fact, marketing teams engineer it this way. Your friend shows you a photo on their phone with significantly higher quality than the one you are currently rocking and game over. And while the 80s saw a boon in this level of consumer expenditure, the idea of “more, newer, better” traces back to the Post-War era of the 1950s. These consumers were praised as patriotic citizens contributing to the betterment of society through purchase.

As a result, we feel an overwhelming urgency to replace our smartphones, headsets or televisions as soon as better features are released on a newer model.

"I strongly believe we need to have sustainable solutions to tackle these problems head on," says Shine. "We need more recycling solutions, so we can reduce our carbon footprint by not needing to mine new material, we need to strengthen recycling solutions here in the U.S. with more consumer outreach and last, but certainly not least, we need to continue to find creative ways to extend the lifecycle of products and/or utilize assets by upcycling them for other uses."

Cheaper Materials

The reason behind the need to replace your washer in 10 years or less versus 20 or even 30 years comes down to a simple explanation: cheaper materials. While in the past, manufacturers used sturdy metals for long-lasting quality, modern manufacturers do not have the same incentive. Why make a product which lasts multiple decades, thus eliminating the need to spend money on a new one, when they can make a cheaper one that will ultimately turn over profit quicker?

Couple the desire for further consumer spending with the difficulty of maintaining a computerized product with complex components and you will rarely see people taking the time to repair their appliances. Instead, they opt to spend a little more on a new appliance in the hopes this move will provide them with reliability. It usually will not and the cycle continues.

What Are My Options?

The most environmentally friendly and wallet-friendly option, of course, is to repair your device or appliance. This is assuming the cost of repair is less than the cost of replacement. If the cost of repair is more than the cost of replacement, one might opt to simply replace.

If you’re looking to repair your item, see what your options are and assess. Does your appliance or device have a warranty? As The Washington Post points out, do your research as you’ll have better luck seeking out repair technicians than working with ones that seek you out. A company called iFixit even offers free manuals for all sorts of equipment and parts – including all-in-one kits for purchase to fix your Macbook or iPhone. While repair may not be the easiest option, it may save you the most money in the long run and will certainly contribute to a healthier environment.

Looking to discard your old electronics? Find a FREE drop-off location near you.