Subscriptions are quickly becoming an integral part of everyday life. For example, streaming platforms have completely replaced the need to own video cassettes, while ride-sharing services partially cover the need to own a private car. Subscriptions have been largely understood as digital services, but a new trend suggests that the same concept could be transferred to physical objects in the near future. Instead of owning a fridge, a washing machine, or even light bulbs, one could acquire a subscription to ensure the freshness of produce, clean clothes, and a well-lit home.
The concept is known as the “subscription-based economy,” a variant of the “circular economy” notion. It postulates that instead of owning some of the objects used every day, one could subscribe to a service to gain access to the same benefits, but without the need to own, maintain or dispose of the object in question. Consumers no longer buy products; they buy access to services. Sometimes, it would mean simply leasing the object instead of purchasing it, but the model goes one step further. It inscribes a shift of responsibility and mentality. Because consumers no longer own the objects, the responsibility to reuse and recycle falls to the producers, who are now in charge of the entire life cycle of the objects they create.