Can Smartphone Production Become More Sustainable?

Can Smartphone Production Become More Sustainable?

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It goes with out saying that smartphones have made our lives extra handy — be it by way of prompt messaging or prompt searches on Google. Unfortunately, whereas these powerhouse units could also be small, they’ve one of many largest carbon footprints in the global tech industry, significantly through the manufacturing course of.

Plus, smartphones are thought-about much more unsustainable as the common consumer replaces them each two years with out recycling their previous unit, placing irreplaceable supplies to waste whereas producing extra. Add to the truth that about 3.8 billion individuals personal a telephone, and also you get an environmental catastrophe. That being stated, is there any approach to make smartphone manufacturing extra sustainable?

‘Modular telephone’ idea

Modular phone

A modular smartphone is a telephone manufactured from elements that may be independently modified or upgraded. This lowers restore prices and reduces digital waste, as you’ll solely be discarding a sure a part of the telephone moderately than the entire thing. There have been a couple of makes an attempt to introduce the idea to the general public, reminiscent of Google’s Project Ara in 2016. But it has did not seize client curiosity as a consequence of some downsides on the time, reminiscent of customers wanting the whole smartphone bundle as an alternative.

Now, a new generation of modular smartphones is concentrating on the common client by making the telephones extra approachable and handy. Teracube is an instance of a modular telephone. It comes with replaceable batteries, a very biodegradable case, and a four-year guarantee.


The lifespan of a telephone has much less to do with its battery life and extra with how producers inevitably plan for obsolescence when designing them. The intentionally poor sturdiness, deteriorating batteries, and exterior look solely pressure shoppers to improve and substitute telephones ahead of they need to.

What customers don’t know is that extending a telephone’s lifespan even only one to 4 years can lower its environmental influence by as much as 40%.

Unfortunately, many producers actively discourage customers from changing the interior parts of their telephones through the use of tamper-resistant fasteners and powerful adhesives. However, there are corporations like iFixit that advocate the right-to-repair laws, in addition to producers like NTT Docomo whose sturdy Touch Wood smartphone is encased entirely in recycled cedar wood. Meanwhile, environmental organisation Greenpeace releases an annual Guide to Greener Electronics, the place they assess the usage of vitality, assets, and chemical substances for numerous telephone fashions to coach shoppers.

Ethical sourcing of supplies

Smartphone parts

The smartphone is made up of mined minerals, reminiscent of iron for the audio system and microphones, silicon for the processor, copper, silver, and gold for the digital circuits, and graphite and lithium for batteries. Minerals are finite and non-renewable, so it must be used sparingly and responsibly. Thankfully, there have been for telephone batteries, and they’re now not as irreplaceable as they have been previously. An instance is Samsung’s ‘graphene balls,’ which improve the present capability of lithium-ion batteries by 45%. We’ve additionally beforehand written about NTT Docomo’s

Of course, there also needs to be an effort to ethically supply supplies. In America, for instance, the Dodd-Frank Act was put in place to require corporations to report their use of tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold from numerous international locations with a view to encourage accountable mining.

Introducing the Fairphone

Perhaps the very best information is that there’s lastly a smartphone mannequin that strives to be sustainable in each manner. Fairphone is an Amsterdam-based firm that has designed the most ethical and repairable phone you should purchase. The Fairphone 3 is a modular telephone that lasts 5 years, and it’s simple to repair, preserve, and improve. To date, it’s the solely smartphone to be given a passing grade by Ethical Consumer.

Because it’s made out of lots of recycled supplies, the one disadvantage is that it’s not as quick as the most recent smartphone fashions. However, producers have been nonetheless capable of meet design necessities using a novel PCB layout. Fairphone’s producers have confirmed that they now not use pogo pin connectors with smaller board-to-board connectors. By fastidiously putting PCB parts it ensures that the board stays purposeful, whereas additionally utilizing much less gold and taking over much less house.

About half of the tungsten used in the vibration motor can also be recycled, however continues to be fairly sturdy. In addition, the polycarbonate used for the again covers and modules is 50% recycled, making it fairly thick and clunky. But since they’re sturdier, they’re much more eco-friendly and are much less prone to be thrown away as a consequence of harm.

The Fairphone is certainly an enormous step in the direction of sourcing supplies responsibly and rising the longevity of smartphones, and we will hopefully look ahead to many extra producers following of their footsteps.

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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