About 426,000 cell phones are decommissioned every day in the United States alone. Some are sold as pre-owned to other users, some are recycled correctly, but most are just thrown right in the trash. Because the majority of communities do not have e-waste recycling facilities, families just drop the phones in the trash to be hauled off to the landfill. But even the ones that are recycled end up releasing some toxic chemicals into our lives, as they are usually shipped off to somewhere in Asia to be haphazardly taken apart by children. With 167,000,000 cell phones being replaced each and every year, the environmental impact is enormous… and thus the importance of keeping our cellphones for longer than we currently do is a pretty big deal. One study suggests that extending the service life of the phone from one to four years decreases the environmental impacts by about 40%. That is a huge difference in impact! And while cheaper phones do get replaced at a higher rate than the more expensive iPhones and Google phones, because of the cost alone, when a new one comes out from those big companies, millions of people instantly buy the new phone… even if theirs works perfectly fine for their needs.
I cannot fault the desire for the newest and greatest, as I even find myself thinking “I would like that new phone” as well – but then I realize I just got my iPhone 3GS last year and it works fine. I had the original iPhone for a few years before I got this newer one last year, so I shouldn’t have any problems avoiding the need to replace it for a while. This is especially true once I saw that I could get most of the exact same software and features on the new iPhone for my older iPhone… for free! The only thing that would be missing after installing the software would be a few items I probably don’t need – like video conferencing. Since it is for wi-fi use with other iPhone users ONLY, that doesn’t do me much good. In fact, it’s more limiting than my laptop is, which enables me to video chat with anyone who has a camera. I will be able to get multitasking and folders, two of the biggest features of the new iPhone, just by upgrading my software – not the entire phone.
Hey, the new phone is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong. I love it. And I will admit that I am an Apple fanboy when it comes to this kind of stuff. But after looking at the specs of the new phone, and realizing that I just got mine last year, I decided I didn’t NEED the new phone – I WANTED it. And this wanting vs. needing is a big part of what contributes to the mass environmental damage our electronics do to our planet. The Basel Action Network has been documenting where our “recycled” electronics go when we are done with them… and it’s not pretty. So keeping our phones in business just a little bit longer than we currently do goes a long way to cutting down on the toxic waste they leave behind. And a website called Last Year’s Model is promoting the idea of getting great gadgets and then keeping them, rather than getting great gadgets and replacing them every year. We all don’t buy new home phones, DVD players, TV’s, or even automobiles every year – so why do we feel the need to replace our cell phones that often? If it does everything you need it to, do you really need the new version? This is especially true in the case of the new iPhone, where the free software upgrade will do virtually everything the new phone will do without the need to replace the entire phone.
Need a new phone? Get a new phone. Want a new phone? Give it some thought before you buy and send yours into retirement.
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