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Phones are what any American can view as a typical everyday item. It is something we use without a second thought. However, when these devices are used by millions every day there starts to be a problem on how to properly dispose of them. Phones, due to the lithium in batteries, if not properly disposed of, are harmful to our environment and can even explode. This can be overlooked by many as now there are many ways to properly dispose of smartphones. Ways to properly dispose of smartphones include, trading them into select stores, re-selling them for money, and even simply repairing them yourself. dispose of As observed in Vox’s video entitled “Why your old phones collect in a junk drawer of sadness,” we are able to dive further into this problem, and its solutions. As a consumer of technology, phones are used almost everyday but also with this use comes great responsibility. Smartphones without a doubt, are a common item in the 21st century. With almost 1.4 billion phones being bought each year, that can weigh into tons of toxic waste and material. “Around 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions that come from a smartphone occur before it even reaches your hands.” As stated before by ‘M Sanjayn,’ a visiting researcher at UCLA and senior scientist; these greenhouse gases are detrimental to the environment. These emissions increase the negative impacts of global warming. He also says, “Cargo ships produce the same amount of carbon gases, per every car in the world for each trip.” Not only does this quote show the astronomical amount of gases being released just by carrying a phone, but also comparing the size quality to an even larger amount. One cargo ship, which is hundreds to thousands of tons, being shipped across the oceans leads to oil spills and other horrendous disasters. Sanjayn discusses his own personal use and hoards of old “junk phones” as well.
Near the beginning of the video he goes on to say, “Everyone has one of these (a drawer filled with old phones and other old gadgets), it’s like a phone graveyard,”(Sanjayn 0:02). By stating this he can connect to his intended audience of everyday gadget users on a more personal level. This way of connecting to the audience on a more emotional level, and by using this at the very beginning, helps the viewer to not feel as guilty on their hoarding of old devices. He goes on to explain how fast technology is evolving, “we use technology today and it’s innovating so fast and built in such a way that actually promotes disposability,” (Sanjayn, 7:11). Technology that is used everyday evolves so rapidly, to the point where it is seen by large corporations, such as Apple or IMS, where it is practically pointless to not continue upgrades. This caused many phone users to improperly dispose of their phones or even hold onto them when no longer wanted or needed. Causing consumers to buy upgrade after upgrade without thinking about the environmental cost, such as, when phones are burned the exposure to the smoke and gases create a domino effect adding into greenhouse gas emissions. These upgrades can be easily fixed as shown later in the video by, “IFIXIT.”
Instead of having to upgrade your phone, you can simply open up your phone and do repairs yourself. This way you can save money and be able to keep your phone without having to pay hundreds of dollars on the newest phone. Arguably many consumers would not wish to take apart their phones. Whether it is because they aren’t paying for it themselves or because their smartphone has no way of opening it up. However there have been alternate and cheaper solutions on how to save and repair your phone without the hassle of buying a new one. “IFIXIT,” has a brand of phones entitled, “Fairphone.”
These phones make it easier for the consumer to repair their phones themselves. As opposed to spending hundreds of dollars on a new phone. Sanjayn states in the video that most phones would be less of a hassle to fix or repair if there were only a few steps on doing it yourself. A fix it yourself phone also provides the option to not only save money but to prevent landfills from being filled with toxic lithium batteries. Yet not everyone has that option available to them, especially given the fact that these phones are only available in Europe.Other options on how exactly to properly dispose of cellular phones include trading them back into the stores in which you bought them from. For many phone plans, after buying a phone you have an option to upgrade after a certain amount of years. This way, after a few years you can trade your old phone in for a new one. “In New York and California, stores that sell you a cell phone are required to accept it back from you for recycling,” (5:00). This means when you buy a cell phone from a store that you originally purchased it from, you can return it and these specific stores will send them off to the proper recycling facilities. As for the rest of the other options, includes stores such as Gazelle that will buy old phones. Being said, all of the old phones that are no longer in use, can be sold for profit instead of throwing away money. However, there are still questions as to what happens when these devices are sold back, or turned in.
A lot of the waste in phones are considered “E-Waste,” (electronic waste). This is explained best by repair expert Gwendolyn Gay, “(phones will create) toxic waste, and if we’re sending it to a place that is recycling it… we still don’t get everything out of it.”(4:23). This helps to explain how various parts of a phone are toxic even if recycled. Therefore can also lead to gas leaks and lead seeping into the environment we live in. Especially when it comes to phone batteries that can explode, due to their lithium content. University of California researchers such as Marcus Worseley are working on longer lasting batteries, so that the e-waste such as lithium won’t be susceptible to exploding or even overheating. He states, “There’s the potential there that you can… design the battery to improve its performance… (and) with 3D printing (you can) print a battery in any shape that we want,” (6:11). Through 3D printing of batteries you are able to store as much power as you want along with storage too. Sanjayn adds, “ these batteries would be made using…graphene… (that eliminates) harmful mining of materials like lithium,” (6:41). This goes to show how dangerous lithium not only is to mine but amplifies the danger of using it in a cell phone battery. Knowing this, many parents with teenagers may not want their children to obtain phones with lithium batteries.
The concept of this video is to promote the sustainability of cell phones and cell phone disposal. It helps to show the usage of phones and narrow it down to simply providing multiple options on how to properly dispose of and reuse the materials. Arguably as for short term effects it may not seem as beneficial to the environment due to similar shipping environmental costs, such as gas emission in cargo ships used to transport old parts. Which can occur when transporting these old electronic devices to repair or recycle facilities. Yet, it can also be argued by turning in these old phones, the Long term environmental cost is greatly improved and impacted. The video also gives the viewers a deeper look into what truly occurs when large technological advancements occur so rapidly in a non-stop ongoing world view, such as the redesigned batteries. There can be statements opposing where not everyone wants to buy a not so well known brand, such as Fairphone as opposed to an Apple Iphone. In the near future there is no telling which brand will be on top. Although there is not a full 100% solution as to what to do with old phones it is safe to say that any and all old electronics can be used in new ways ranging from fix it yourself phones brought by the company “IFIXIT,” to phones without lithium batteries in the first place to avoid e-waste seepage and explosives. Leading to larger more complex environmental damage adding to air pollution and climate change.
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