Apr 16, 2021

The Top 10 uses for your old smartphone

e-waste
Smartphones
Sustainability
IoT
Harry Menear
6 min
E-waste - a term referring to any piece of electronic equipment that is discarded - is a huge problem. Every year, smartphones, tablets, TVs, etc are thrown away. In 2019, a report sponsored by the United Nations found that the world discarded more than 53.6mn tonnes of e-waste, a record high.
 
In addition to the obvious environmental damage caused by the addition of plastics, silicon, metal and other non-biodegradable materials to landfills, the UN’s report found that the improper recycling of e-waste is a huge economic drag. “Only 17.4% of 2019’s e-waste was collected and recycled,” the authors of the report wrote. The remaining waste was determined to contain unused gold, platinum, silver and copper worth an estimated $57bn worth of material - “a sum greater than the gross domestic product of most countries - were mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.”
 
There are many factors contributing to this issue, from smartphone manufacturers who make it physically difficult (or even flat out illegal) to repair a broken smartphone - let’s not even get into things like planned obsolescence - to a lack of regulatory standards that prevent the shipment of e-waste overseas, where it disappears inside a murky “recycling” supply chain, often never to be seen again. This is - like many environmental issues - not the fault of the individual consumer. In much the same way that, if we all composted our food waste, it wouldn’t have a positive environmental impact that comes close to scratching the surface of emissions attributable to large scale corporations, even if we all make a concerted effort to recycle our old smartphones, and use our existing devices until they break down, it’s not going to make much of a dent in purposefully truncated upgrade cycles and the profit-driven culture of “semi-disposable” consumer technology. Change needs to come from a regulatory level.
 
That being said, there are some cool or interesting things you can do to give an old smartphone a new lease on life.

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