Standing Up against Planned Obsolescence (as long as possible…)

Swapna Mirashi


Today I added a few more prints to the life of my 3-year-old printer which I bought in Australia. Now in Singapore, the ink cartridges are unavailable. Due to my tendency to keep spare cartridges, I did not need to buy cartridges here till last week. But when a couple of cartridges ran out of ink, I set out shopping. The very commonly available cartridges in Australia, were not available at any stationery store, electronics stores/ megastores, online. So finally I called canon and was informed that they are country specific and are not available in Singapore.

So what do I do?

‘You could change your printer. It would cost you less than ordering ink tanks from Australia.’ Pat came the reply.

Just for a cartridge? I was not surprised. That’s how the current e-world moved these days. Watch this eye-opening BBC documentary by Jaques Peretti (There are 3 episodes – find them on our channel’s ‘Raising Consumers Playlist’.

But I decided to hold on and use the printer for my B&W printing and look for alternate options meanwhile.

But yesterday, despite a full black ink tank and another half, I could not print B&W as my color ink tanks had run out. Why? I wondered, I dont need them anyway. But as it stands, I discovered that if you do not choose grayscale while printing B&W, the printer mixes the colors to print black. No wonder then my colored ink tanks ran out so fast, even if my printer was largely used for printing documents – primarily black but at times a colored logo or email id.

So I took them out and gave the print command again. Cannot print, until all cartridges are in place. So I had to place back the empty ink tanks. I was without a printer even when I had one. I could not print, even when the ink tanks had ink. After a few R&D attempts I could print and this is what helped. (My printer is Canon Pixma All-in-one MP560)

1. Choose grayscale printing.

2. If the printer says ‘Cancel print as one of the ink tanks have ran out’, press the STOP button on the printer and hold it for 5 seconds and the printer will start preparing to print. Eureka.


I, brought up with experience of things that last forever and in fact, passed on to the next generation as heirloom, strongly stand against this planned obsolescence. Much of the environmental, socio-economic problems we are facing today as a global village, will vanish just by ‘Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle’. In fact a couple of Northern European countries are promoting ‘repair’ enterprises to reduce waste. I strongly believe that corporations should also own up their ‘bottomline’ and face the consequences in their P&L.

Tax the companies that make or force consumers make irresponsible consumption decisions – e.g. buying new printer just becoz ink tank runs out of ink – ink cannot be refilled/ new tanks unavailable in different region or unavailable as the model is outdated. Or launching an ‘upgrade’ every couple of years and ‘downgrading’ earlier models by timing battery life, making software upgrades incompatible, changing charger size etc etc..