Consider this: today, there are more mobile phones on earth than people. The new technology age brings amazing opportunities. But, with e-waste recycling rates so low, it also means a lot of waste. We're consuming and disposing of electronics at an alarming rate:
According to a 2019 UN study, the world produces 52 million tonnes of e-waste each year, weighing more than all the commercial airplanes ever made. Only 20% of it goes to recycling or re-use. The rest of it - valuable raw materials - goes to landfill.
Globally, we throw away 300 tons of gold annually in our mobile phones, laptops, screens and TVs. Let's put that in context - Australia, the 3rd largest gold producing country, mined 325 tons of gold in 2019, from around 60 mines. That's a lot of gold mines we could shut down (along with the environmental damage that goes with it), just by digging through our drawers instead, and recycling our e-waste!
Globally, we're throwing out £7 billion of gold per year in our e-waste!
Obsolescence is great for sales in the electronics industry. Laptops breaking every few years. Cha-ching! Software upgrades not compatible with hardware. Cha-ching! Smartphones that can't be unscrewed to change batteries or repair. Cha-ching! But it's not so great for your wallet, and pretty disastrous for the environment.
Next time you buy a new smartphone, think twice. Do you really need to upgrade? What about a second-hand phone - you can get them near-new with a warranty. Refurbished phones from Relove technology not only come with a 12-month guarantee, but the company invests 50% of profits into youth charities. Talk about a feel-good phone!
Fairphone, based in Amsterdam, sell the world’s first ethical, modular phone, made with repairability in mind. They started in 2010 as a campaign against conflict minerals. Turns out they weren't the only ones who cared - today Fairphone has over 100,000 users worldwide.
Is this the world's most sustainable phone?
Be smart about getting rid of your old gadgets. Donate them to an e-waste recycling charity. Sell them through a certified seller. Get them recycled (Apple or Argos accept old devices in exchange for cash). Just be sure to wipe all your information - you don't want to be a surprise YouTube star!
Fewer broken gadgets means less landfill. But using protective plastic cases often means more plastic waste. Each year, 1.5 billion plastic smartphone cases end up in landfill. Instead, go for an eco-friendly phone case made from bio materials.
Protect your phone with plants! This eco-friendly phone case can be composted at the end of its life
How do you reduce e-waste? Would you buy a refurbished phone? Share your thoughts in the comments below!