2019 marked the peak of a five year rise in e-waste. We now throw away more than 50 million tonnes of electronics every year and phones are a big part of the problem. You can't scroll through Instagram or check your bank balance on a Nokia 3310, so what's the solution? Can you have the latest tech without destroying the planet?
Don't own your phone
UK-based start-up Raylo say the key to sustainable smartphone ownership is not to own one at all. Their business is built around leasing a phone for a monthly price - and it has sustainability at its heart. Raylo customers get a brand new Apple or Samsung phone, then, when they're done, they return it, and then it goes back into circulation.
Leasing rather than owning is seemingly one way to ensure fewer phones end up on the scrapheap, but for consumers, ownership has for so long been a badge of honour. It might take a shift in mindset for some to lease their much-loved mobile, but as we happily take temporary ownership of more and more of our daily essentials - from cars to music collections - it could be the perfect time to add phones to that list.
There is increasing consumer interest in refurbished phones. Part of this is financial - buying a top of the range iPhone outright will now cost you north of £1,000 - but it's another way to become smarter about smartphone sustainability. The production of every new smartphone drains limited natural resources and picking up a refurbished phone reduces the demand for a brand new one to be produced. Scientists have warned that crucial elements like silver, arsenic and gallium could run out in the next 100 years, so the more life we can get out of our devices the better.
It's easy to forget about the army of accessories that come with our phones - stands, cases, chargers, earbuds… until we come to get rid of them that is. Another way to up your green points is to choose accessories that are easy to recycle or which are made from recycled materials. There are tons of choices that are safe, sustainable and stylish, like these compostable cases from Pela, so there's no excuse!
Reuse and recycle
Environmentally speaking, it's better to reuse than recycle, but what happens when an old phone is beyond repair? Some of us try to recycle our phones responsibly, but most end up thrown away with electronic waste. Countries including the UK, US and Japan ship huge volumes of electronic waste to developing nations like Malaysia, Ghana and Nigeria. It piles up in landfills, or worse, is disposed of unsafely, pumping toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, water and food supply. Closer to home, it's estimated that around 40 million old gadgets are just lying around in homes across the UK - indicating that we might need a re-education in recycling.
To make the future of smartphones more sustainable, how we get our phones might need to change. But how we get rid of them is equally as important and clearing out that junk drawer might be a good start.
Copyright © 2020 Article was made possible by site supporter Rachael Matthews