People are becoming more dependent on their electronic devices. In the developed world (and, increasingly in developing nations), everybody has at least one gadget they carry or use regularly. The majority of the population in North America have a smartphone which people use for communication, accessing the internet, consuming media, etc. Most also own a tablet, a laptop or a desktop computer, or smart television.
The World’s E-Waste Problem
While buying the latest in consumer technology is not a bad thing, discarding a perfectly functioning electronic device in favor of a new one is wasteful. One report revealed that Americans use their smartphones for an average of 24.7 months before upgrading. In China, they spend less time with their smartphone, logging in 21 months of use on average before buying a new one. The life cycle of smartphones is the longest in the United Kingdom where consumers use their electronic devices for an average of 27.7 months before upgrading.
That is a lot of devices being discarded regularly. Granted, many people sell or trade their devices before they buy a new one. Some choose to let garbage bins and junk removal services properly recycle or dispose of their e-waste to avoid harming the environment. Still, a significant number of people are still throwing away their electronic devices into landfills.
In fact, the United Nations warned that the entire world has thrown away 50 million tonnes of e-waste in 2018. It is a huge problem that has dire consequences for public health and nature.
Major technology companies from around the world are stepping up in order to reduce the problem. Here is what they are doing.
Starting 2020, the wall charger is no longer shipped alongside new units of iPhones. Apple explained that the decision was made for the planet. By not including the wall charger, they can reduce the mining precious metals used in these devices and the carbon dioxide emission associated with creating these products. Apple argued that most people have their own wall charger anyway which they use for other smart devices.
While the positive environmental impact of removing the wall charger from the box is questionable, Apple does have existing initiatives that seek to minimize its contribution in destroying the planet. The Cupertino-based company already pledged to use 100% renewable energy to manufacture its devices in the near future.
Apple also announced way back in 2017 that they are on track to creating a closed-loop supply chain. This means that, eventually, all their products will reuse parts that were recycled from older devices, not mined from the earth.
Using recycled materials requires less processing compared to raw materials. If the world’s trillion-dollar company fulfills its plans, using an iPhone or a MacBook would be eco-friendly.
Apple’s biggest competitor, Samsung, also has big plans to improve its operations and reduce its carbon footprint. The company based in South Korea adopted the slogan “Planet First” in 1992 as a promise to move toward an eco-friendly and sustainable future.
In 2021, Samsung followed Apple in removing the wall chargers from S21. Prior to that, the company also used recycled and bio-based plastics and papers on the packaging of their products.
Moreover, Samsung is encouraging consumers to be creative and reuse the cardboard packaging of home appliances. The boxes that come with the televisions, for example, can be transformed into a cat house or a planter.
Samsung also has its own circular economy policy with the goal of collecting 7.5 million tonnes of discarded products and using 500 thousand tonnes of recycled plastics by 2030.
HP has been working hard on becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly for a long time. The company managed to achieve the goal of zero deforestation of its own supply of papers two years ahead of the deadlines they set for themselves.
In 2020, the electronics company pledged to use 75% less single-use plastic packaging, and they gave themselves five years to make the necessary changes to reach the goal. Some changes that will be implemented include replacing the plastic-based cushions used to secure printers and computers during shipping.
HP was also lauded by environmentalists after the company reduced its global greenhouse gas emissions by 35% in 2018, an effort it started in 2015 and was way above the initial goal of 25% by 2025. The company continues to increase usage of renewable energy in its facilities and stores around the world.
No one person or corporation can save the planet from doom. The problem of e-waste and climate change can only be solved through collective effort that involves the entire human race.