Smartphone users should ignore harmful and unnecessary upgrades - The Irish Times

Smartphone users should ignore harmful and unnecessary upgrades – The Irish Times

In an ecologically tragic update to haze and poor fruiting, fall is now also the season for new smartphone launches. The pre-hype starts in the summer, and then, when the papers start to fall, so does the bank accounts of the millions of people who will cash out a handsome amount, or sign an expensive new smartphone contract, to get the latest phones. in their pockets.

Thus, phone sellers are encouraging an irresponsible technological ritual, which is to promote the environmental waste and damage of completely unnecessary smartphone replacements on a schedule that artificially cuts the life span of such an expensive purchase.

But in the name of catchy ads that amplify subtle increases in battery life, or tweaks to camera settings that most people will never use, millions of phones are being dumped in a landfill or the back of a desk drawer — phones full of recyclables that include metals that carry huge ethical and environmental costs. .

Lots of people who say they care about the environment, however, get a new phone upgrade every time their phone contract expires. However, in seven years, a smartphone has twice the life of a laptop, and people can also save on a lot of bills with the phone they own, when their two-year contract expires, in a SIM-only deal.

Rent and purchase waste

But in an expensive and environmentally damaging move, phone makers, phone sellers and network operators are obliterating that option with a tough fall sale of new phones and new two-year contracts. Soon, we’ll be bombarded with Black Friday and holiday marketing from all sides, encouraging us to buy new phones straight away or on recommitment contracts. A contract that is, essentially, a difference to a smartphone in the car rental purchase process, except that when we’re paying for the phone in full two years later with an expensive contract, we silly discard our devices. This is like giving up your fully paid car at the curb, and heading straight to the dealers for another in a new lease purchase commitment.

When the British consumer defends who? Recently polled about what they do with their old tech, 3 percent admitted they’ve gotten rid of their devices (compared to 35 percent of inkjet printers). But 34 percent put their old smartphones in the drawer, the highest percentage of pointless neglect across six categories of electronic devices.

Many environmentalists see smartphones as the single most problematic device due to such a short lifespan, encouraged by manufacturers and network operators. Analysts say smartphones are the most popular consumer device, and about half of Europeans surveyed acquire a new phone every 18 months. Deloitte. About 4.5 billion smartphones are in use globally, with a massive 1.5 billion new phones expected to ship in 2022, which is an indication of high hardware turnover.

The bulk of the phone’s CO2 emissions – 83 percent according to Deloitte – are incurred during manufacture, shipping and use in the first year. Smartphones are expected to emit 146 million tons of carbon dioxide or equivalent emissions (CO2e) this year. This represents “only half a percent” of total global emissions, but this is for just one category of devices in which the carbon impact could be reduced if people used phones for longer.

blood minerals

some researchers He argues that the emissions analysis for smartphones is generally poor and that smartphones alone, from production to use, likely have the highest emissions of all devices, beyond the combined total of desktop computers, laptops, and computer monitors.

The human costs are also significant. Producing the phone requires the use of about 60 minerals, including 16 of the 17 rare earth metals, “each contributing to a whole range of social, economic and environmental impacts,” he says. Some are “blood minerals”: elements like cobalt, a key metal in lithium-ion batteries, are at the heart of human exploitation and well-documented conflict. Others are mined in toxic places by the world’s poor.

Then there are the environmental costs. About 34 kg of rock must be excavated to produce only 100 g of minerals and scarred ecosystems. Mining of gold and tin, both required for smartphones, is decimating the Peruvian Amazon and forests in Indonesia.

Mining of iron, aluminum, and copper — 40 percent of the metals by weight in the phone — produces toxic mine tailings implicated in catastrophic spills. Dredging the sea floor for tin is destroying coral reefs. There are plans underway to mine the sea floor for rare mineral rocks.

Recycling is only a partial answer. Definitely don’t toss your phone – toxic elements can leach into a landfill. But only 15 percent of global consumers recycle smartphones as is, and since components are small and worrisome, only about 30 percent of currently reusable materials are Refundable.

Make sure to recycle or resell. But, much better, aim to use your phone for a longer period, ideally seven years (for maximum environmental impact, says Which?). When purchasing, choose Refurbished instead of New. And for a change, consider giving the planet a gift this year: plug your ears against the siren call for an unnecessary and indulgent phone upgrade this fall.

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