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Which reveals the “hidden cost” of using smartphones

April 8, 2019

Which has recently investigated the lifespan of a smartphone and the impact they leave on the planet, as well as revealing which manufacturers use ‘conflict-free’ materials.

Which states that while electronic gadgets such as smartphones “leave deep ethical and environmental footprints on our planet”, there are steps consumers can take to help reduce the impact.

In order to explore the effects of smartphones and find out how they can be reduced, Which conducted an in-depth investigation, which included a look at the elements which go into making smartphones.

These devices, along with many other electronic products, “contain more than 33 percent of the 92 naturally occurring elements”, among them ‘conflict materials’ such as gold and tungsten.

They are described as such because “their theft and sale have been linked with funding killings, violence, rape, and other human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other conflict zones.”

While some companies “are still not transparent” about where they source their materials, Which explains that some “are considerably better than others”.

These include Fairphone (which ranks first on Which’s list of most transparent manufacturers) as well as Apple, Motorola/Lenovo, Google, Nokia, Sony and more.

Another issue related to smartphone production is the treatment of the workers who create them. One of the largest manufacturers is Foxconn, whose factories are “widely reported to have poor working conditions and low pay”. Factory employees can also suffer from exposure to toxic elements such as mercury and cadmium.

Finally, when it comes to a smartphone’s end-of-life, recycling them can also be problematic, with a great deal of e-waste from the Western world often ending up in “huge – sometimes illegal – e-waste sites”.

When it comes to disposing of our unwanted smartphones and other electronics, Which advises “selling it on to a dedicated refurbishing programme”, selling it to a friend or relation, or donating it to charity.

Which also provides 5 ways to reduce your consumer footprint: not upgrading your phone sooner than you need to, replacing the battery rather than the entire device, consider buying a refurbished or used phone, selling or donating your old one, and choosing a phone you are more likely to keep for longer.

Categories : Around the Industry

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