Think about the gadget in your hand for a moment and how it has got to be there. The materials, the processing, the transportation, the manufacture, the packaging, the disposal. All of this has social and environmental impacts.
These are most of the elements that go into a smartphone:
Indium, Aluminium, Silicon, Potassium, Yttrium, Lanthanum, Terbium, Praseodymium, Europium, Dysprosium, Gadolinium, Lithium, Tantalum, Cobalt, Carbon (Graphite), Copper, Silver, Gold, Nickel, Deodymium, Magnesium, Bromine, Silicon, Arsenic, Phosphorus, Gallium, Lead, Tin.
These elements do not present themselves ready to be put into a phone, they are found in rocks that have to be mined and processed. Praseodymium is found in Monazite and Bastnasite and has to be treated with alkalis and heat to extract the element. Some of these elements can only be found in certain specific areas of the world. Indium is predominantly found in China and Japan, a fact not lost on the Chinese who know full well the power they hold in their hands regarding the availability of some of the rarer elements. China too is not renowned for labour relations, working conditions in the mines can be awful and life expectancy for the workers sometimes much reduced.
Once mined and processed these elements are shipped to be made into the various components that then go into making up your smart phone, which you keep for how long? Until the next model comes out? Until you are offered an upgrade? What do you do with your old phone? Do you put it in a drawer in case you need a spare phone? Do you send it to be recycled or do you throw it away?
The phone in your hand has literally come from all over the world and has valuable resources within it that can be reused. If your old phone is still functioning think of giving it to a charity shop that can pass it on to someone in the developing world. By keeping phones in use it takes the pressure off the relentless need to keep mining and processing virgin material.
Recycling of the elements within a phone is a work in progress but it is being looked at so any phones that you have that are no longer working must be recycled properly. Those parts that can be recycled will be and those that cannot currently be recycled are stored until they can be. Please do not throw your phone in the bin. There it is just burned in an incinerator, the materials within are lost to us and the ongoing digging up of new material continues. Redeem Group provide mobile and IT recycling services further details can be found at http://www.redeemgroup.com/.
When you are considering a new phone think about if you really need one, the manufacturers very cleverly market their products, don’t be duped into thinking you need that new model. Also research the manufacturers, what are they doing to make their phones recyclable and fixable and what are they doing to ensure that the myriad of workers involved in their supply chain are paid fairly and working in safe conditions. For more information have a look at ifixit and fairphone.
If you would like more info on any issues raised in this blog please feel free to ring our experts at Credibly Green on 01746 552423 or email firstname.lastname@example.org