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Almost every one of us has a mobile phone; on average we change our mobile phones every eighteen months. There is always a new phone on the market, for example the first iPhone was released in 2007, it's now 2012 and there have already been six different versions of the iPhone. This isn't because of new technologies, its due to the competition in the market, the battle of who can create the most innovative phone; manufactures don't want to be left behind. Have you ever thought what happens to your mobile after its use? What about everyone's mobile phone after its use? Look at this statistic for example:
"At the end of 2011, there were 6 billion mobile subscriptions. That is equivalent to 87 percent of the world population. (1)"
What do you think happens to all these phones after their use? Some are decommission and put into landfills, some reused or recycled. On average less than 10% of mobile phones are currently recycled, and in America alone around 140 million end up in landfills across the country. This is one of many reasons why we have to strive to make mobile phones a sustainable business.
A sustainable business is a business or company, who have no negative impact on the environment. They protect their global / local environment by taking into consideration what impacts a business decision would have on the environment, they always put the environment first. In this case the mobile phones created would have little or no impact on the environment before and after their use. It's a business that meets the needs of a client without damaging the environment, protecting our future generation.
At this moment in time I feel there is a lack of sustainability when it comes to mobile phone disposal. As I mentioned less than 10% of mobile phones are being recycled, with the majority stuck in landfills, polluting our environment. Mobile phones can be fully recycled; unfortunately it's a long process and is very time consuming. However is can and is being done, here is how mobile phones are being recycled at the moment:
(2.)Phone cases contain a mixture of metals and plastics, the metal is usually steel, metal is widely recycled. The plastics are then heated, separated, shredded and then mixed with more plastics to create a new product, computer casing for example.http://resources0.news.com.au/images/2010/04/14/1225853/517860-recycled-mobile-phone.jpg
The battery, the inside of the battery can be used to create more batteries, the shell contains metal most commonly nickel. Nickel is then used to create stainless steel.
The circuit board is made up of precious metals such as gold, silver, copper and lead. All these metals melt at different temperatures so are separated during a heating process.http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/offices/em/sustainability/environment/images/lifecycle.gif
This diagram above shows the life cycle of a mobile phone, at the end of use you can see there are three paths which can be taken, incineration and disposal, the least environmentally friendly way, reuse, or recycle. Not enough of us are taking the latter path.
It's extremely important to recycle mobile phones, especially batteries as "80% of rechargeable batteries contain the hazardous heavy metals nickel and cadmium (3.)" One battery is enough to pollute 600,000 litres of water which would prove particularly costly if the battery contaminated a water supply. If we are to make mobile phones a sustainable business then one essential feature would be to provide batteries which are safe to the environment. I feel that companies aren't doing enough to make mobile phones a sustainable business, one idea I have is to let people know the dangers of not recycling mobile phones, make the customers more aware of how not recycling your mobile phone could affect the environment. The companies should also offer the customer information on the easiest way to recycle or resell your old mobile phone.
(5.)One idea which O2 are implemented at the moment are eco-ratings for mobile phones, the idea is that every phone will have an eco-rating which is decided on "the overall impact of the device over its lifespan. (4.)" it will take into consideration what materials the mobile phone is made from, its impacts on the environment caused by the manufacturing of the phone, how much packaging is used, can it be fully recycled and finally how easy is the phone to reuse or recycle. Here is how the eco-rating will be displayed next to the mobile phone:-O2 - Forum for the Future Eco-rating helps consumers choose a sustainable future
Today the most eco-friendly phone you can purchase is the LG Rumor Reflex, this mobile phone has a five star energy rating and "doesn't contain any environmentally sensitive materials, such as PVC, brominated and chlorinated compounds, halogen, beryllium, phthalates and nickel. (6.)" I feel this is a big step forward as big companies are now seeing that people do care about our environment and are making a change, conscientiously thinking about what impact the mobile phone could potentially have on the environment.
So what effect does not recycling your mobile phones have on the environment? As I mentioned earlier mobile phones are made up from highly toxic materials (mostly in the battery) for example, lead. Letting mobile phones rot away in landfills adds to our greenhouse gasses, causing global warming. This, in short, is where the suns light rays cannot escape through the ozone layer so are reflected back to earth consequently heating the earth up. Recycling mobile phones would also keep toxic materials out of landfills, preserving our natural resources.
There are many ways which you can resell your mobile phone once you have finished with it. Reselling mobiles has proved a very popular way for people to be environmentally friendly and not just to place them in the bin. Sites like Mazuma mobile and Envirophone offer money for your old unused mobiles. They then send the phones for "reuse in markets such as China, Africa, Pakistan and India helping to bring improved and more widespread communications to these developing economies. (7.)" These sites offer you an incentive to recycle unfortunately I feel the money is almost the only reason why people use these sites.
Over the past few years new standards have been implemented, which means every mobile phone which comes off the manufacturing belt will have to meet a set of requirements. The standards will take into consideration the entire life cycle of the mobile phone, the materials used all the way to disposal. The standards will also include how energy efficient the mobile phone is, what materials are from recycled sources, how much packaging is used and how environmentally friendly the manufacturing process is. "The rankings will be listed as silver, gold and platinum (8.)" making it easier for customers to see how green their new mobile really is.
Overall there are many ways available to the customer when it comes to recycling their old mobile phones, but from the statistics I mentioned earlier only 10% of mobile phones are being recycled at this moment in time. I don't see this improving any time soon, so I feel it's down to the manufactures of the mobile phones to make their phones more environmentally friendly. Things are improving gradually, as new standards are being implemented and mobile phones will soon all have eco-rating systems. It's becoming easier to recycle or resell your old devices and new eco-friendly phones are being produced. However this is nowhere near enough to be able to call mobile phones a sustainable business. Us as customers can do more as well, if a million of us recycled our old mobile phones, this would be the equivalent of taking 1,300 cars off the road for a year. Next time I buy a new mobile phone, I will be sure to make a green purchase.
If we are to truly make mobile phones a sustainable business then companies would have to spend a lot of time and money on the investment and research required. New ideas would have to be thought up, how are we going to create a mobile phone which will have no negative impact on the environment? How are we going to make batteries last as long as conventional batteries with materials which wouldn't pollute our environment? Those are just some of the questions that would need to be asked. However the only question that stands out to me is, are the companies willing to spend this much time and money when at the moment they aren't required to? I believe not.