Environmentally friendly mobiles you need to have on your radar

Approximately 1.5 billion cell phones are sold worldwide every year. At the same time, the pace of consumption driven by planned obsolescence means that huge amounts of waste are also generated.

According to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020, 2019 saw record e-waste. Up to 53.6 million tons of e-waste worldwide, of which only 19% was collected and recycled. So much production means an abusive consumption of resources and raw materials needed for its manufacture.

E-waste, a third world problem

It is estimated that 50% of the composition of cell phones is plastic, 15% is glass and 25% is composed of different metals. Some of them, such as mercury, lead and cadmium, are dangerous for the environment.

According to the conclusions of the latest study on the environmental impact of smartphones (conducted by the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Surrey) the use of a high-end smartphone releases 95 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere. Not only this, but a single phone battery can pollute up to 600,000 liters of water.

Where do obsolete electronic devices end up?

The electronic waste generated each year exceeds the weight of all commercial aircraft manufactured to date.

And where does this waste end up? Unfortunately, most of this waste ends up in third world countries. That is, almost 40 million tons end up in landfills such as Agbogbloshie. This place is one of the most polluting spots on the planet. Located about 15 minutes from Accra (Ghana’s capital), it houses hundreds of thousands of tons of electronic scrap from Europe and the United States.

This is not the only case of the consequences of the West’s way of life and production on the African continent: several rivers in Africa have been dyed blue due to the waste dumped by textile factories in their surroundings.

How the cell phones we use are produced

While it is true that we spend hours a day connected to our terminals, we do not know what is behind their production process. What materials are they made of? Under what conditions? Where do they come from? Can a cell phone be sustainable? How does its production and use impact our environment?

Smartphones have a rather complex production process, as they are usually designed in China, Europe or the US. For their production, minerals are needed that are extracted from areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo or Uganda. They are then assembled in China and sold all over the world.

It is difficult to determine concretely which types of cell phones are more sustainable than others. This is because there are a lot of variables to take into account. Some of these are the durability of the models or the ease of repairing them. Their manufacture and availability for sale are also important.

In the same way, there are other factors to take into account. These relate to the way in which companies source the minerals needed for their manufacture. Not to mention what policies they have in place regarding the disposal of highly polluting and toxic chemical compounds.

To make it easier, we’ve done some research. Here is a selection of cell phones produced ethically and respectful of:

  • The environment.
  • The people who work in the production processes.

Sustainable cell phone brands

Firm created in 2013 in the Netherlands, whose objective was the development of an “ethical” cell phone with low environmental impact.

To do this, they are concerned in achieving a good sourcing of sustainable materials to the defense of the welfare of workers. In fact, it is the only smartphone manufacturer with Fairtrade gold in its supply chain.

They also fight against planned obsolescence by designing durable products that are easy to repair by the user. Not only this, but they also encourage recycling through take-back promotions and the return of unused phones to the market.

Their latest model, the Fairphone 4 has a 100% recycled plastic back. In addition, the casing is made of sustainable aluminum with ASI* certification, which endorses their environmental and ethical commitment to the aluminum industry.

The U.S. firm creates simple devices designed to last. So much so that they come with a 4-year warranty and at least 3 years of software updates. All its minerals are extracted from sustainably treated mines and under decent labor criteria.

A key aspect of their latest model, the Teracube 2e, is that it uses 100% recycled plastic and the included casing is biodegradable. It also has no charger, headphones or any type of component that could end up as electronic waste.

This German brand offers modular handsets. That is, they can be repaired piece by piece. Its latest model, the SHIFT6m includes a screwdriver so that the user can repair it by following its Youtube tutorials.

  • Your current phone

Yes, that’s right, your own phone is the most sustainable phone you can have today. As long as you put it to good use and try to extend its lifespan as long as possible.

At eSmart Recycling, we work in the recycling of computers and their donation. Our objective is to give value to these devices in the hands of children and families who need them. To date, we have already supported school children in our community and in emerging countries.

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