Electronic waste is on the rise
Few people have much idea that their phones rely on tiny amounts of precious metal which are often only available from mines in areas of conflict like the Congo, where miners work in dangerous conditions, digging makeshift shafts by hand. At the other end of the process consumers upgrading their phones can dispose of their old ones, and the precious metals inside, without a second thought. The digital revolution, carried forward by constant upgrades to our computers and phones, is leaving a heavy trail of profligate environmental costs in its wake.
The United States produces more e-waste annually than any other country. The amount of electronics that Americans throw away every year? 9.4 million tons. People often don't know where to take their electronics to properly dispose of them so that they can be refurbished, reused, or recycled.
For every one million cell phones that are recycled, the EPA states that 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. For those not familiar with palladium, it’s a precious metal using for making electrical contacts, as well as surgical instruments and parts for watches
Fairphone, an inspirational Anglo-Dutch venture, is a challenge to the mobile phone industry and its consumers to find a better way to make, use and dispose of their phones. The Fairphone aims to do for phones what fair trade and organic standards have done for food. The venture’s aim is to make the mobile industry rethink how phones could be designed, manufactured and reused. The design team behind the venture is working with alternative supply chains and environmental groups to get the materials from safe, sustainable sources. The elegant Android phone is designed to be easily disassembled, so its components can be recycled and reused. Fairphone wants everything about its phone to be traceable and transparent, including the terms on which it is sold.