By Arwa Lodhi
We may think that Smartphones are super; they are now objects we simply can’t live without. We dress them up in pretty cases, sleep with them beside the bed, and feel lost without them.
While it’s true that for many under the age of 20 the concept of each person having individual phones is completely normal, not long ago, phones were communal: one would serve a whole household, a whole office, or even an entire street, in the case of phone boxes.
Today, not only does every person seem to need their own phone, which is wasteful enough, but we forget all the resources that go into making it. What’s more, smartphones are usually deliberately manufactured so they are impossible to repair; this means it’s usually easier for customers (and more profitable for manufacturers) to replace broken ones with new. Combine that will built-in obsolescence (meaning your Blackberry or iPhone is made to just stop working, all of a sudden) and the introduction of ‘must have’ new models, manufacturers of smartphones have us all by the throat. Last year alone, 1.7 billion new phones were sold!
Clearly, smartphones come with a lot of baggage. But there’s more. Conflict zones like the Democratic Republic of Congo still supply key metals used in manufacturing, and ethical labour practices are rare–phones are sometimes assembled by child workers and/or in sweatshops. In addition, most smartphones are not properly recycled, leading to not only the waste of their valuable components, but to an increasingly large, terribly toxic rubbish heap.
But there is hope for better practice: a team of Dutch designers has dreamed up the Fairphone, which will start shipping to European consumers beginning this autumn.
Fairphone’s first handset will be made up of minerals that are 100% conflict-free, and later versions plan to use only recycled materials. Fair wages are paid in the factory where they are assembled.
What’s more, the company will allow for easier phone repairs by selling spare parts of all the essential components, and no single operating giant will dominate the phones: owners can also install the operating system of their choice. When it’s time to recycle the phone, the Fairphone team will help connect consumers with the best programs.
But for now—with the hope that the phones will stay in use longer than usual—Fairphone is helping support recycling of other companies’ phones, and will donate €3 from each sale to removing electronic waste in Ghana.
Has your conscience picked up this call? Learn more here.
Have an old phone you’ve been meaning to recycle? Take action!