Impacts of smartphones on the environment.

Greenpeace recently launched an animation to raise awareness of the impact smartphones have on the environment. In case you haven’t seen it here is the video from Greenpeace – The smartphone “Circus of I”.

Key facts:

  • 7.1 billion devices have been and gone.
  • Smartphones are created with raw materials.
  • Recycling and repairing devices isn’t simple.

7.1 billions devices! That’s not including tablets, other smart devices and electronics either. It is unlikely smartphone and technology sales will decline too.

The video does provide lots of brilliant ideas but in a realistic world… Are big businesses going to produce better quality phones that will slow sales? Probably not. After all Apple admitted in December 2017 they deliberately slowed down older devices. They have since said they have upgraded the iOS systems and devices to support devices lasting longer. Apple do seem to release a new iPhone every 6 – 12 months and it is never one device at a time. The latest launch was three devices, the iPhone XS, XS Max & XR.

But what happens to smartphones when we are done with them? Sadly some end up shamelessly in landfills, it is believed up to 70% of toxic waste landfills is due to electronics.

smartphone waste.jpg

If electronics are beyond use and repair they will be sent to one of the few reputable smelters where they will be shredded and melted down. The majority of these metals will be burned except the rare few metals such as palladium and gold.

Sadly not all of it is disposed of responsibly. Just look at the residents of Agbogbloshie near Ghana’s capital city. This is known as the largest e-waste dump in the world. Those unfortunate enough to work in the e-waste dump have health issues ranging from untreated wounds, burns, eye damage, breathing problems or issues such as back pain to name a few. Some sadly die of cancer in their 20’s due to working in the toxic environment.

Agbogbloshie e-waste dump

How to recycle your smartphone?

  • Take your device to a reputable recycling centre. If possible they will do their best to refurbish and reuse the device. If they aren’t fit to sell in the UK or US market they may end up in South America or Asia. This is why there was a demand for the Motorola Razr long after the EU and US market had moved on to the next popular device.
  • In the UK the government offer a website where you can search by your postcode if you local services recycle mobile phones. Click the link to see if you can recycle your devices safely. Other countries can look online and check what is available locally.
  • You can also use mobile phone companies such as 02 Recycle, Giff Gaff & Tesco mobile and you will get money back for sending in your phone.


What can we do?

  • Not rush to buy the latest device and make our current device last longer. Less demand = less production.
  • Don’t expose your phone to extreme weather conditions. Heat can damage the touchscreen and cold weather can drain the battery of your phone causing long-term damage.
  • Use your phone efficiently. Delete unused apps, Bluetooth off when not in use and do you really need your phone on maximum brightness? Charging your phone too frequently will lead to unnecessary battery damage.
  • Look after your device so when it is time to move on it can be sold. The three R’s… Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.


What will you do to help limit your e-waste? What One Change Now will you make to help the planet and better the lives of people who have to deal with our waste?


Related blogs:

International E-Waste day.
How do I recycle…

10 thoughts on “Impacts of smartphones on the environment.

  1. I was unaware of the environmental impact of phones. I had thought when you sell them on to companies they were being resold or sent to 3rd world countries for use. Obviously I am a bit nieve. As it happens to save money, for the 1st time I kept my phone at the end of its contract. Now not only am I saving myself £20 a month on SIM only but after reading this I am really pleased I kept it on. More people should do this. When it does run out how can i find a reputable company to give it to? Suggestions please. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have read a lot about the environmental ahd health affects of smart phone and just the wi-fi. None of it is good. i keep my phone until it dies completely. Thanks for sharing this! I have shared on FB & twitted!


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