Mobile Phones are Indeed Getting Greener


The number of cellphone subscribers is now more than six billion globally. This figure is quite large because recycling rates in a majority of the regions are low. A mobile handset has an average life of 18 months, which compounds the problem further when you think of the sheer number of gadgets that have to be disposed of everyday.

What are the Harmful Substances in Cellphones?

It gets scary when you think about the effects of substances like phthalates, lead, zinc, PVC, arsenic, brominated flame retardants and numerous others. These agents have all the time they need to get into the environment since a handset that has been disposed of sits in a landfill for countless years. Also, the telecommunications sector has adverse effects due to greenhouse gas emissions like the creation of two tonnes of CO2 per annum by every user of these gadgets.

The Shift Towards Greener Products

After a barrage of criticism from multiple quarters, the cellphone industry started to produce greener products. A majority of gadget manufacturers have announced improvements to their products in a bid to cut back on the negative effects to the environment. Some examples include:

• LG and Samsung have introduced solar-powered devices. The Chinese mobile maker ZTE has also partnered with Digicel from Latin America to produce low-cost solar mobile handsets.
• Motorola, on the other hand, introduced a cellphone known as Renew, which is quite easy to recycle since it is made of a plastic material that is sourced from water bottles.
• Nokia’s journey to rid the earth of cellphones that were filled with substances that degrade the environment started in 2006 when it vowed not to use flame-retardants or PVC.
• LG announced the removal of beryllium from its handsets and promised to research on the use of paints and biodegradable products. Also, the company promised to produce handsets that charge without being plugged in.
• Apple’s handset, the iPhone has also been made greener by the incorporation of numerous features into a single device. Each iPhone is a combination of an iPod, electronic planner, GPS device, calculator, e-reader and digital camera. So, the consolidation of numerous devices into one reduces environmental impact because of the fewer peripheral gadgets needed.

Making an Impact with Used Handsets

In addition to altering the materials used in favour of environmentally friendly alternatives, the way the world handles defective, unwanted and old phones matters a lot. Today, companies like Gazelle, TechForward, ReCellular and NextWorth offer cash to persons who no longer use their mobile handsets. These companies refurbish these handsets and resell them to prevent their entry into landfills where they may cause damage to the environment. Additionally, these companies recycle phones that cannot be sold or those beyond repair. It is interesting to note that a majority of cellphone makers are now buying back old devices from customers.


The introduction of these apps has been instrumental in making smartphones greener than before. With them in use, consumers are more aware and are, therefore, better informed about taking action. They have quickly become environmental education tools that have resulted in significant positive impact. Users can now monitor how their devices are consuming energy, learn of ways to enhance their phone’s efficiency and many other uses. Interestingly, most of the eco-apps are pre-installed by the device manufacturers.

Steps to Safer Gadgets

To reduce the impact that mobile phones have on the environment, professionals have come up with ways that device manufacturers can implement in their various activities. Some of these measures include:

• The manufacture of energy-saving batteries such as the ORB (organic radical battery). These charge in as little as 30 seconds and have no heavy metals in them.
• The extension of mobile contract length to over 18 months, which is typical of the UK. This move will enable consumers to keep their devices for longer, which prevents them from upgrading to newer alternatives sooner. Therefore, the number of devices that reach landfills will reduce.
• Many devices are tough to repair because they are glue-shut to prevent access to their internal components. If their defective components can be replaced easily, not many of them will require recycling or disposal in landfill sites. Statistics put the value of precious metals that get discarded when such handsets are not repaired at over 150 million Euros.


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