We’re all aware of how many of our existing habits are bad for the planet; however, one aspect of our lives whose environmental consequences we frequently fail to acknowledge is our use of technology. A digital detox could be a more effective way to save our environment than you realise.
What is e-waste?
‘E-waste’ describes all electrical and electronic devices or parts which have been discarded without the intention of reuse. It is inevitable that as technology becomes more integrated into the our lives, we consume devices faster and we’re also discarding and destroying faster. Consequently, in 2017 the UN published a report labelling e-waste as the fastest growing part of the waste stream.
How can we cut down on our e-waste output?
In our podcast episode, ‘Our Phone Habits and the Environment’, Kelsea Weber from iFixit discussed the impact e-waste is having on the environment and how the consumer can help decrease the detrimental effects of our technology use by preventing the needless throwing away of our devices. ‘iFixit’ is a community which empowers consumers to fix their own electronic devices by providing the teaching and resources required by people to keep their devices working for longer.
Devices are often disposed prematurely due to only minor faults, and often a quick and even simple fix would be enough to get the device in usable condition again. In 2011, 151 million phones were discarded in the US alone, and many unnecessarily. This is not sustainable. Therefore, the ‘Right to Repair’ movement has been launched in the US to allow consumers to take back control over their devices, spreading information and resources enabling the population to fix their devices, from tractors to smart phones. The movement encourages consumers to:
- Try to fix things yourself.
- Support community level repair initiatives.
(This includes both online platforms and the increasingly popular ‘repair cafes’, groups that meet to help the consumer repair their device).
- Share and show the world it is possible to fix these things.
So how can a digital detox help?
Ultimately, the easiest way to help reduce the accelerating increase in e-waste is by using our phones less. With use, the capacity of our batteries declines. Batteries are manufactured to perform at 80% of their original capacity only for up to 500 charges – less than two years of use for those who charge their phone every night, as most of us do! If we didn’t need to recharge our phones as often, the battery would last longer and thus we would have to rely less on regular upgrades. Therefore, a digital detox – cutting down the hours we spend on our devices – is both financially and environmentally beneficial.
Recently, the UN published a report stating that, globally, 50 million tonnes of e-waste is produced each year – the equivalent to 125 thousand jumbo jets. This is estimated to increase to 120 million tonnes by 2050. How can we be so attached to our devices yet be so quick to throw them away as soon as we have an excuse to upgrade?
We need to slow down and assess our relationship with technology. Our devices already have so much influence over our daily lives and our inability to fix them heightens this by giving the manufacturers control over the user. And in fact, having the knowledge and confidence to be able to fix our devices ourselves would actually start to promote a healthier relationship with them by demystifying tech. Our easy access to our devices is a wonderful thing but let’s start considering the impact it has on ourselves, our wider community and the environment – and let’s undertake to do our bit to cut down on the e-Waste mountain.