The Flat Pack Washing Machine The French Designer Claims Will Last a Lifetime
Tired of costly brand name electrical appliances that give up the ghost after a remarkably short time? Meet Julien Phedyaeff, a French inventor now preparing to launch a flat pack self-assembly washing machine he promises will last a lifetime.
According to the French broadcaster France Inter this young French designer has launched a crusade against planned obsolescence. After years of dismantling every type of machine that crossed his path, he says he felt compelled to do something about the ever increasing number of products deliberately designed neither to last, nor to be repairable. “They are often impossible to open particularly portable computers, smartphones, and washing machines. Parts, where they exist, are a prohibitive price. In short, everything is done to make the consumer buy a new one”, the designer told the radio station.
In France planned obsolescence has been banned by law since last summer, but the problem is proving beyond reasonable doubt that any manufactured product has indeed been designed not to last. So Julien Phedyaeff has designed “the Indestructible”, a washing machine he pledges will last 50 years!
He plans to spend 2016 seeking partners, and funding and aims to roll out his lifetime washing machine in 2017.
The “Increvable” will be sold in kit form so consumers can assemble it themselves at home using a series of easy to follow online videos. This avoids a costly assembly plant and brings down production costs. Although the final retail price has yet to be decided, it will be “upwards of 500 euros, but below a 1000 euros” says Julien Phedyaeff.
He is the first to admit that associating his machine with the Ikea style flat pack is not perhaps the best image given that many of the Swedish store’s products are not renowned for durability. However he insists that flat pack is the only thing the “indestructible” will have in common with the Swedish furniture giant. By selling in kit form for do-it-yourself assembly he says consumers will become attached to the product and not be tempted to ditch it at the first sign of any trouble. A consumer will also know that everything inside can be replaced, by any handy do it yourselfer.
Phedyaeff is certain there is a massive market for the idea: “As consumers we are increasingly frustrated with planned obsolescence”, he says.
In France consumers are also being urged to join HOP: “halte à l’obsolescence programmée” or the stop planned obsolescence movement, an association opposing the throw away society. Its website lists numerous products classed by the length of their useful life. The site also recommends the growing Repair Café network where volunteers will help you repair small household goods such as irons that have stopped working rather than just dumping them. The service is not always guaranteed to produce a result but surely useful to those on a tight budget.
Consumers have complained for decades about the short life of so many modern appliances. As the de-growth movement moves from the fringe to make some mainstream inroads (despite extremist positions on limits to growth) there are signs of a consumer pushback against inbuilt computer chips that suddenly shutdown printers, mobile phones, household appliances; or motor car components that appear programmed to force owners to replace parts at specific intervals of a vehicle’s life while coughing up for expensive repairs only possible in specially tooled workshops at vehicle dealerships.
More than 50 years ago Vance Packard published The Waste Makers a best selling work detailing how planned obsolescence encouraged excess consumerism in the US and other capitalist societies.
This was a pioneering 1960 exposé of “the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals”, on how the rapid growth of disposable consumer goods was degrading the environmental, financial, and spiritual character of American society.
The book brought attention to the concept of planned obsolescence, in which a “death date” is built into products so that they wear out quickly and need to be replaced. By manipulating the public into mindless consumerism, Packard believed that business was making us “more wasteful, imprudent, and carefree in our consuming habits,” which was using up our natural resources at an alarming rate.
Listen to the France Inter broadcast on the new washing machine here:
Story: Ken Pottinger