Consumer Products

The iPhone and the Environment

recycle iphone

Never before in the history of mankind has so much waste been caused by electronic devices. Unfortunately, the iPhone is no exception to this as we see around the world, massive stockpiles of e-trash, electronic devices that are no longer used, or desired, just thrown out and sent to large dump grounds. CBS News reported way back in 2007 that in 2005, out of 2.2 million tons of electronic items went into landfills. Out of that, only 345,000 tons of it was recycled. Bear in mind this is ten years ago, and the introduction of the iPhone and other smart phones will have significantly added to that burden, which will see a massive rise in those figures.

This is a harrowing statistic, and one that each one of us should bear in mind. We should also consider that the advances in iPhones and smartphones in general are beginning to plateau. Of course, we shall see new things enter the market place, but in essence, there is really not a lot of difference between an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 6 when you think about it. Sure the iPhone 6 has some nice new features, runs a bit faster and has a better quality camera, but do these features matter that much? Of course Apple and other manufacturers wouldn’t want you to think so, but consider companies such as iPhonefixed who are intent on keeping these older phones going for longer than their marketable lifetime.

It is a colossal waste. With the average phone contract lasting a couple of years, the latest and smartest phone will replace the old one, despite it largely doing the exact same thing the previous phone did. These old phones will likely sit in people’s drawers, with some intent of being used again sometime, for some other purpose, but ultimately, they’ll end up in the landfill. And of course, this only accounts for the phones that actually last the length of the contract, as a vast majority of phones will get dropped, or submerged in water, and be rendered useless. These units can be repaired. They do not need to be replaced!

The cost to the environment is immense. The cost to people is immense. The majority of these phones will end up in landfill, polluting the environment as the CBS report above mentions. But then there are the phones and other e-trash that actually makes it to being recycled. Where do these end up? In a small town in China, mountains of old electronic items are sent for the workers to extract the valuable metals from them. The name of this town is Guiyu.

Pictures speak a thousand words, and Time magazine published a series of photos from this town. In it, we see rivers of black ash, people being poisoned by working in conditions that could never be allowed to exist in the west, and mountains of discarded circuit boards, plastic casings. One very sad fact of this village is that the children suffer from a very high rate of lead poisoning.

Consider now the amount of work and energy that has gone into developing the device. Then, the amount of work taken in extracting the materials needed for the device. These materials have to be transported to places where they can be purified and treated. Then once again, transported to the factory to be turned into the product. The product then needs to be transported throughout the world in order to be sold. People then drive and purchase the product. They use it for a year or two. Then they are thrown out and discarded. And then cycle repeats for the next newest iPhone, which really isn’t that drastically different from the previous incarnation!

Isn’t this is a massive waste in resources, materials, and damage to the environment and people? Isn’t it completely ridiculous when you stop to think about it?

And yet, it is so simple to stop, or at least slow it all down. Do you really need a new phone that often? Could you consider using the same phone for 3 years, or more to help slow this waste and pollution down? It really is something that could be done by every one of us. And the time to stop is now. Keep your phone. Keep it protected, make sure it is safe, and if any damage happens to it, get it fixed. It’s not difficult to repair an iPhone, and if you are unsure, there are plenty of places where it can be fixed.

So make a difference. Make your current phone last for the next few years.