Since 2007, there have been 7 billion smartphones that have been made and released, and there is no wonder why when you go to the public, early everyone has it. The rate of smartphone ownership among people aging 18 to 35 has been increasing, and this has made an enormous impact socially and environmentally.
Take a bus or a train, and notice everyone being glued to their smartphones, tapping and scrolling arching their back and not paying full attention to their environment. Take notice how smart technology has been increasingly being relevant to different institutions especially education, health, and even development. Notice how the production of these 7 billion smartphones used the power that can power an entire country for a year. And see how each device contributes to the e-waste that is accumulating yearly. Surely, the smartphone has a profound impact on society and the environment.
The Environmental Cost
The expected life expectancy of smartphones is 5 to 10 years; however, nearly all people who get their phones use them for an average of 12-24 months and when you see the trends and how they are advertised, you would understand how this is happening. Statistics will give us an estimate. 60% of mobile phones are produced to replace existing phones and 90% of these phones are still even functional.
Although there are companies that make use of these well functional phones similar to the used phones Canada that can be purchased way cheaper than the new ones, the environmental implications of the trend where everyone wants to have a new phone every year are enormous. This constant updating has produced an enormous size of e-waste. This electrical and electronic equipment and produce chemicals that can leak into groundwater which is harmful to trees, plants, animals, and humans.
This is all connected to the rate of individual consumption which is getting more and more unsustainable. However, the companies are actually the ones to blame for the planned obsolescence of this technology as part of their marketing strategies.
The Social Cost
Certainly, more and more people are being so drawn with their cellphones. For instance, children are getting more hooked on their cellphones and not being presently available to their surroundings. However, the social impact goes more than this; it extends to the third world countries that are being exploited by the CEOs ad companies who produce and manufacture smartphones.
For instance, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is being exploited with its mineral where 50 % of which is controlled by the violent armed groups and independent militias. Women and children are oftentimes sexually abused as these independent groups are moving into mining areas. Workers as young as ten years old are forced to dig for tungsten, tin, and tantalum which are needed to manufacture goods and electronics. There is only a little economic growth that happens in the country as the end profits are mostly obtained by companies that produce electronics in the West.
There are many ways on how to, at least, minimize the effects of smartphones socially and environmentally. And we can start by reusing old functional phones and saving our planet form exhausting too many resources.