What do you do with a subway car that’s been operating 25 years longer than it was designed to? What do you do with a phone that’s only designed to work for three? In this thoughtful essay, Alex Vuoco suggests that we look to the make-it-last ethos as a course out of the increasingly wasteful spiral that capitalism has wrought.

There is tension in the question of whether to build objects more intensively, so that they last longer, or to recognize that some things cannot endure and thus should be designed that way. There’s no hope for a paper plate in the long run, for example. It’s designed to enter the waste stream as cheaply and easily as possible. Conversely, a toaster could last for decades if maintained properly, assuming the manufacturer hasn’t built obsolescence into it (as is often the case).