Apple recently unveiled its latest line of mobile phones, including the iPhone X.
The new iPhone will come with a sleeker design and improved functions - alongside a hefty environmental price.
Three new models were announced at the event, including the high-end iPhone X, plus the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8S models.
But the high price tags pale in comparison to the cost to the environment.
A Smartphone For Every Person On The Planet
According to Greenpeace, there have been 7.1 billion smartphones manufactured since 2007. To put that into perspective, that is enough to equip near enough every person in the world with a smartphone.
Apple alone sold over 78 million iPhones in the months following the release of the iPhone 7.
But this success is a significant contributor to the growing eWaste problem.
2.5 Year Lifespan
The average age of a smartphone traded in between April 2017 and June 2017 was 2.58 years. This means people are buying a brand new smartphone every 2.5 years.
Unfortunately, just a handful of people recycle their smartphones when they purchase a new one.
A 2014 study from the United Nations University, estimated that less than 16% of eWaste is recycled.
3 Million Tons of eWaste
That same study calculated that 3 million metric tons of eWaste were produced in 2014 alone. Much of that waste goes to landfills or to developing countries to be taken apart to reclaim the metals held within.
However, when devices are handled improperly, there’s a likelihood that metals such as cobalt or tungsten will leach into groundwater; whilst burning heavy metals releases dangerous gases into the atmosphere.
But smartphones don’t just create pollution when they are discarded.
The mining of the precious metals needed to create them can devastate ecosystems.
The world’s largest producer of cobalt, which is used in rechargeable lithium ion batteries found in smartphones and other electronics, is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
In the DRC, for instance, child labor is common, and proceeds from mining operations are used to fuel ongoing conflicts in the country, according to an investigation by the Washington Post. In March, Apple said it would temporarily cease buying cobalt mined by hand in Congo.
The choice to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 likely added further to the eWaste epidemic. This is because older ear buds will soon become obsolete without a new adapter.
The AirPods wireless earbuds, which replace the traditional headphones, are powered by a rechargeable battery. But, it is reported that the battery cannot be replaced.
On the other hand, traditional headphones that use wiring and magnets are easily recyclable.
Apple has taken steps to reduce its environmental footprint.
The company is investing in methods to recover materials from its products and works to encourage customers to return products through its recycling program, Apple Renew.
The company is also working to use more recycled materials in its manufacturing. For example, they are transitioning to using 100% recycled tin solder for logic boards.
Apple is not alone in this issue, the vast majority of smartphone manufacturers do not do enough to improve the recyclability of devices.
Mobile devices are just one element of the global eWaste issue. At Tier 1, we can help you responsibly dispose of your unwanted laptops and PCs, call us today on 0161 777 1000 for more information.Back to Blog
Tier 1 Asset Management Ltd
59 Stanley Road, Whitefield, Manchester, United Kingdom M45 8GZ