Reportedly, neither Apple nor Samsung will provide a charger with their upcoming flagship devices. Will it have any influence on the environment, whether as a cost-cutting measure or as a genuine step toward sustainability?
When it comes to smartphone manufacturers, Samsung is one of the few that has made significant strides toward sustainability. As of last year, the South Korean firm has switched to more eco-friendly materials like paper for its phone packaging, eliminating any remaining plastic.
It just released its most eco-friendly chargers. The business claims that since 2014, 13 million kilowatt hours of energy have been saved thanks to these Samsung chargers and that the newest ones will be even more efficient. Since this is possible now, the OEM may eliminate them altogether to cut down on wasteful production.
The Android titan’s recent actions have been entirely favorable. The carbon footprint reduction from chargers and packaging may not seem like much, but it pales in comparison to the mountain of e-waste produced by the technology sector.
Disposable smartphones and e-waste recycling
One of the most serious issues affecting our planet today is the disposal of electronic devices. Everything from refrigerators and washing machines to mobile phones, tablets, and wearables may be considered electronic garbage, or e-waste.
Although several sources provide somewhat different figures, it is generally accepted that annually, the globe generates around 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste. Small devices like cell phones now account for around 10% of the sum, and this share is only projected to grow.
While flagship prices have skyrocketed in recent years, more affordable and mid-range alternatives have emerged that are just as disposable. The issue is made worse by the use of “planned obsolescence” and the lack of repairability in many products.
Even Samsung has gotten in on the action here. The repairability of its equipment is often cited as a weakness. Most of its devices, including its flagships, cease getting the newest. Android version after just two or three years, despite the company’s better update track record in recent years.
The same is true for the vast majority of Android producers. This lessens a phone’s desirability in the secondary market and reduces its initial attraction to new consumers.
The resale value is crucial since this is. Where old phones go when people trade them in for a discount on a new one. In many cases, they are repaired, then given away or sold again. They are also less likely to keep the phone if it is difficult to change the battery or take it to a third-party repair shop if it breaks.
Foldable smartphones, the newest tech craze, only exacerbate the issue. They are more likely to be broken than “non-foldable”. Alternatives and hence have a greater potential to contribute to landfill overcrowding.
The problem with smartphone recycling
Worldwide, we only manage to recycle around 20% of all electronic garbage. Inappropriate disposal of electronic waste is a big problem, and cellphones with lithium-ion batteries are a prime example. Battery fires have been responsible for the destruction of large buildings.
What’s worse is that cell phones, along with the rare and precious elements they contain, often wind up in landfills. Scientists at Plymouth University found that, on average, a smartphone contains 900 milligrams of tungsten, 70 milligrams of cobalt, 90 milligrams of silver, 36 milligrams of gold, and other rare components after putting it through a blender.
While it may not sound like a lot, they calculated that 7 kg of high-grade gold ore would need to be mined in order to produce just one smartphone. This effectively implies that mining for new ore continues, frequently in conflict locations. While nonrenewable and hard-to-get resources are constantly dumped.