During the PLATE (Product Lifetimes And The Environment) conference 2017 in Delft, Netherlands, about 150 academic scholars and practitioners intensively discussed our present practices of designing, producing, using and throwing products away. They debated over questions such as how long products actually do live, how long they potentially could live, and why lifetimes are often so much shorter than they could be.

We were participants of the conference and the discussions inspired us to think more deeply about our material culture. Our opinion is: Product lifetimes are not only a topic of academic research or a technical challenge to be solved by product designers and manufacturers, they also are a matter of social discourse and moral reasoning. About questions like: Why do we often – and in many different ways – deny our products what we wish for ourselves: A long life? Although this question might seem not worth discussing, it is implicitly debated and answered all the time all around the world as part of our everyday production and consumption practices.

This is why we want to encourage a discourse about the right of products to live and to be cared for.

To bring our moral obligations towards nature – where the resources and ingredients of our products stem from – back in our minds, we propose the declaration of products rights. Not as a draft for legislation but as a – little satirical but nonetheless solemn – impulse for discussion.

Melanie Jaeger-Erben and Erik Poppe