Since the Industrial Revolution, new technology has always created new environmental concerns. Some of these concerns receive less visibility than others, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily less significant.
Smartphones have created a number of new risks that environmentalists and consumers must be aware of. Here is an overview of some of these environmental risk factors.
Consumption of energy and scarce resources and mining hazards
Developing smart phones and other mobile devices requires a number of scarce resources. As more consumers purchase mobile devices, these resources will continue to be exhausted at an accelerated rate.
The raw materials used to make mobile devices include:
The harmful environmental impacts of mining these materials are extensive. They include sinkhole formation, decreased biodiversity, soil erosion and groundwater contamination.
Environmental consequences of new health problems caused by smartphone addiction
Smartphone addictions are creating a host of new health problems. They lead to insomnia, hypertension, tendinitis, vehicle related accidents and many other costly problems.
These health problems are having an indirect impact on the environment. As the demand for healthcare services to respond to them increases, new medications and devices need to be produced to respond to them. This will take its own toll on the environment in ways that people don’t anticipate.
Metals bleaching into the earth
There are a few regulations on disposing of mobile devices. Unfortunately, consumers and manufacturers rarely dispose of them after they are recalled or no longer needed. According to one report, only 29% of e-waste is recycled.
Tree Hugger published an article detailing the risks.
“Cell phones pose a serious burden on the environment, gobbling up power and precious materials before heading to landfill. In the developing countries where they are repurposed or dismantled, they can end up in the rivers and soil, where they help contribute to cancer, damage to the nervous system and to brain development in children. In one study published last year, 34 recent cellphones were put through a standard E.P.A. test that simulated conditions inside a landfill. All of them leached hazardous amounts of lead — on average, more than 17 times the federal threshold for what constitutes hazardous waste.”
These findings are nothing short of shocking. The fact that people dispose of cell phones so recklessly should alarm all of us, because the materials are bleaching into the environment at a frightening rate.
What does happen to them? They are often sent offshore, we are countries with more lenient environmental laws can deal with them. Of course, these countries rarely take responsible measures to protect disposed smart phones from contaminating the environment.
The risks of having lithium, arsenic and other materials bleach into the earth can be severe. They are even more severe if the phone isn’t placed in an area that is isolated from groundwater and vegetation.
Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult for waste management companies to properly dispose of mobile devices as demand for them rises. Samsung needed to dispose of over 4 million phones that it recalled early last year.
The United Nations estimates that 90% of electronic waste is illegally disposed of. That figure is likely to grow in the near future as our obsession with smart phones escalates.
Smartphones create new environmental risks
Our environment is very fragile. Unfortunately, we don’t realize how our day to day activities may be devastating it. We must be aware of the risks and be diligent about dealing with them. Even something as simple as being overly dependent on smartphones can cause havoc on the environment.