Obsolescence as a challenge for sustainability

BMBF Junior Research Group „Obsolescence as a challenge for sustainability"

Electric and electronic products of the 21st century have a negative environmental impact during production to end-of-life. The trend is that the use phase of electric products shortens continuously while the number of products is growing. This leads to a fast growth of e-waste. A longer use phase can increase the resource efficiency and reduce the environmental impacts. A great deal of discussion revolves around the so-called “obsolescence”, a shortage of use phase by functional or qualitative deficits. Other explanations focus psychological obsolescence, the replacement of functioning products by newer ones for lifestyle reasons. It still lacks an integrative framework explaining how obsolescence is inscribed in interacting social practices of economic activity, production and consumption.

The interdisciplinary research group aims to investigate the multiple and interacting causes of obsolescence in electronics. Perspectives from engineering, economic science and sociology will be combined to explain obsolescence in its various forms and to develop strategies to enlarge use phases and reduce the amount of products consumed. 

Duration: July 2016 to June 2021


Project Partner

Zentrum Technik und Gesellschaft, zentrale Forschungseinrichtung der TU Berlin

Forschungsschwerpunkt Technologien der Mikroperipherik in der Fakultät Elektrotechnik und Informatik der TU Berlin

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Principal Researcher

Dr. Janis Winzer (Fraunhofer IZM) 
Prof. Dr. Melanie Jaeger-Erben (ZTG der TU Berlin)