What is the environmental impact when disposing of mobile phones?


It’s clear that mobile phones aren’t the most environmentally friendly devices out there. Although this fact is widely accepted, we go about our daily lives paying little attention to how we’re affecting our earth. In fact, by looking at your phone screen, you’re also looking at valuable pieces taken from the earth’s crust. It’s important to note that there’s nobody to blame- in 2019 the number of smartphone users in the UK increased to 55.5 million, rounding it up to 83% of the UK’s population. This percentage is forever growing the same as other issues surrounding the environment. 


The building of mobile phones requires the contaminating extraction of elements like gold, cobalt or lithium. Imagine this on a scale with millions of people not just buying one phone, but changing their phone every 2 years! All phones that have been made so far are unsustainable- yet little is ever mentioned about this product. In this blog, we will discuss what the environmental impact is when disposing of mobile phones and what you can do with yours to make a positive impact.


What is the environmental impact when disposing of mobile phones – The manufacturing stage 


A mobile device releases the majority of its carbon footprint at the beginning of its lifecycle. This is no surprise, as the first stages of the manufacturing process contaminate the earth via mining, refining, transport and assembly.


Our harmful extraction of these elements provides:


– Iron for the speakers

– Aluminium and magnesium for the frames and screen

– Copper, silver and gold for the electronic circuits 

– Graphite and lithium for the batteries 

– Silicon for the processor 

– Lead and tin for the solderings


There are also other precious, rare earth metals that go into the production of a phone.


Is it possible to recycle phones?


Yes, it is possible, in fact, you can recycle around 80% of the phone. You can’t however dispose of your old phone in a regular bin. If your phone does go into a bin, the chemicals in your phone could go into a landfill where the chemicals could contaminate the ground. 


You can recycle your phone by sending it somewhere like Range communications where they will look at your phone for reuse potential or will recycle your phone while protecting your personal data and security.  


There are in fact mobile phones like the Huawei Ascend W1 that are more environmentally friendly. This is due to its low hazardous and recycled plastic materials!


What is the environmental impact of disposing of mobile phones compared to other activities?


It has been said by Patrick Byrne, Senior Lecturer in Geography at Liverpool John Moores University, and Karen Hudson-Edwards, Professor in Sustainable Mining at the University of Exeter, that gold mining in the tech industry is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon. 


Smartphones produce the most greenhouse gases than all other consumer electronic devices. This is why it’s important to recycle your old phones and keep them for as long as possible.  


Although there are lots of environmental disadvantages of buying a new phone, compared to the transport and energy sector it’s very minor. The trick is to be mindful about where you put your phone when its time has come to an end. In order to do this, it is best to dispose of your phone in the correct way by recycling it with a reputable company- the same you would with any WEEE waste (Waste electrical and electronic equipment).


Thank You for reading our blog ‘What is the environmental impact of disposal of mobile phones?’. If you have any old phones that you want to recycle in the right way, you can send your phones to Range Communications.

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