JAN 19, 2018 6:20 AM PST

What should I do with my old phone?


Your phone is probably one of your most closely-held possessions, literally and figuratively. But what happens after one or two short years when your phone stops working and it's time to retire it to the graveyard of electronics? Ever stop to think about the carbon footprint of that phone's life? Well to get down to the facts, we have to start at the beginning.

About 80% of the greenhouse gases that come from a smartphone occur during production before you've even bought it. And with about 1.4 billion phones produced every year, we have to think about where and how that production supply chain is happening. Often times those phones are made overseas and shipped from country to country for each step of the assembly line in their production. Those huge cargo freights carrying your new phone produce about as much carbon dioxide and particulate pollution as all the cars in the world combined.

But flash forward and think about why your phone ended up in the graveyard. Likely it's because the battery stopped holding a charge. Well, there are some new technologies out there that are working on 3D-printing batteries that are much more developed and can last for much longer than the current ones we use - we're talking decades here. That's all with the intent of making the electronics industry more sustainable and reducing the amount of toxic e-waste that we produce.

Because, as a reminder, you can't just recycle your old phone like you would your plastic yogurt container. Because of the lithium in the battery, you need to make sure you properly dispose of it. In some states like NY and CA, this can mean bringing your old phone back to store where they will recycle it for you, or looking for an e-waste site near you that collects old electronics. Want to learn more? Watch the video!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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