( Four minute read)
I realize that restricting technology might be an unrealistic demand to impose on the up and coming generation but Smartphones are killing the planet faster than anyone expected.
Electronic waste is a huge problem around the globe.
The worst-case scenario is that electronic trash winds up in unregulated or mismanaged heaps, slowly leaking corrosive chemicals into the soil and water table.
All phones require 16 of the 17 rare-earth metals.
This is more than just an amusing detail about the device that never leaves your side.
Suddenly your smartphone is looking a lot more valuable than you might think. Pocket-sized vaults of precious metals and rare earths.
A typical iPhone is estimated to house around 0.034g of gold, 0.34g of silver, 0.015g of palladium and less than one-thousandth of a gram of platinum. It also contains the less valuable but still significant aluminium (25g) and copper (around 15g).
One tonne of iPhones would deliver 300 times more gold than a tonne of gold ore and 6.5 times more silver than a tonne of silver ore.
One million mobile phones could deliver nearly 16 tonnes of copper, 350kg of silver, 34kg of gold and 15kg of palladium.
And that’s just the start.
Smartphones also contain a range of rare earth elements – elements that are actually plentiful in the Earth’s crust but extremely difficult to mine and extract economically – including yttrium, lanthanum, terbium, neodymium, gadolinium and praseodymium.
Despite the recycling programs run by Apple and others, currently less than 1% of smartphones are being recycled.
With an estimated of 3.6 billion using smartphones tech’s carbon footprint is beyond what any one designer, one company, or even one government regulator can contain. Those 3.6 billion smartphone users upgrade to a new phone roughly every 11 months.
That’s because every Google search, every Facebook refresh, and every dumb Tweet we post requires a computer somewhere to calculate it all in the cloud.
Smartphone consumes as much energy as using an existing phone for an entire decade. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.
But that is not the main problem. It is the building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years.
Even as the world shifts away from giant tower PCs toward tiny, energy-sipping phones, the overall environmental impact of technology is only getting worse. They’re more or less disposable.
Whereas ICT represented 1% of the carbon footprint in 2007, it’s already about tripled, and is on its way to exceed 14% by 2040.
That’s half as large as the carbon impact of the entire transportation industry.
The list of ICT components is exhaustive, and it continues to grow. ICT’s importance to economic development and business growth has been so monumental, in fact, that it’s credited with ushering in what many have labelled the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The overall largest culprit with regards to CO2 emissions belongs to servers and data centres themselves, which will represent 45% of ICT emissions by 2020. Although there is no single, universal definition of ICT, the term is generally accepted to mean all devices, networking components, applications and systems that combined allow people and organizations (i.e., businesses, non-profit agencies, governments and criminal enterprises) to interact in the digital world.
Mobile apps actually reinforce our need for these 24/7 servers in a self-perpetuating energy-hogging cycle. More phones require more servers. And with all this wireless information in the cloud, of course we’re going to buy more phones capable of running even better apps.
The future will only get more dire if the internet of things takes off and many more devices are hitting up the cloud for data.
Wearable devices, to home appliances, and even cars, trucks and airplanes. If this trend continues . . . one can only wonder on the additional load these devices will have on the networking and data centre infrastructures, in addition to the incremental energy consumption incurred by their production.
The average teen spends about two and a half hours a day on electronic devices.
What can be done?
Recognising that changing consumer behaviour is probably the least viable option, we need to come up with something better.
Governments should pass a law that requires all companies manufacturing these deceives to make a cash refund payment to encourage the return of the devices for recycling. which could make it the ultimate cottage industry,
The internet is omniscient, our phones omnipotent, and together they demand and are destroying our values however there is life beyond the phone, but experiencing its richness requires mindfulness and discipline.
All human comments appreciate. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin.