Today, when the world is going through unprecedented global pandemic effects, other critical events affect humanity. Nature has kept a barter exchange with humans. The anthropogenic factors have created malfunctions in the ecosystem that disable the basic functioning and decrease its efficiency. Amidst all this, smartphones are the new concerns that are amplifying the impacts of global climate change. Smartphones are the major cause of harmful gas emissions and radiation. In a recent report, there are many observations related to smartphones and their impact on the environment.
The production of every smartphone goes through a few phases of manufacturing:
- Prototype making with the simulation system
- Software Installation
- Testing phase
- Mass Production
The last one is related to the supply chain ecosystem of smartphones. As per the current trends in 2020, the most damaging devices to the environment are smartphones. Though these smart mobile devices need a small amount of energy for their work or operation, any emission comes during the production phase. It is because the chipset and motherboards embed precious metals. Mining of precious metals like aluminum, cobalt, copper, gold, palladium, platinum, silver, tantalum, tin, and tungsten comes at a very high cost. The production process creates 80% of the smartphone’s carbon footprint. 16% accounted for its usage during its lifetime, and the remainder is emitted during transportation.
Usage of smartphones
According to Gartner’s report, around 80% of the UK’s population owns a smartphone, which is greater than 75% of the USA’s people. In a year, there is a sale of millions of new smartphones. So, it means some of the users buy a new smartphone. The previous smartphone then becomes e-waste, one of the most harmful constituents that can create a dent. Out of 16% of the e-waste generated each year goes to landfill sites. As a result, we observe land degradation in many areas. Some of the materials present in the smartphones are microplastics – another destructive content present in our environment. Smartphones are the primary component of the ICT ecosystem. So, they are the major contributor to an increase in carbon footprint under the flagship of ICT. At present, ICT commits 1.5% of global emissions that can grow up to 14-15% soon.
Emissions during the lifetime
Some of the analysis suggests that smartphone emissions have arisen from 17 to 125 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent between 2010 and 2020. According to WHO, there are an estimated 6.9 billion smartphone subscriptions globally. There are already reports available in the public domain that smartphones’ usage creates issues related to carcinogenic-based health problems. Streaming HD video on the smartphone generates eightfold more emissions than standard definition (SD) videos. The rigorous use of smartphones, especially that of the internet, make ways to leak harmful gases into the environment. Also, their frequent usage leads to a smaller lifetime of smartphones. Hence, on average, a user buys a new smartphone every two years as per the current data.
Steps to Mitigate Emissions
Taking various steps would help to reduce the source and flow of emissions from smartphones. Some of them are:
- Watching SD videos if that the quality is not a significant parameter.
- Seeking second-hand smartphones to avoid buying new ones. The second-hand or sharing mobile equipment reduces the share of embodied emissions.
- One can save energy by turning off the screen when the user is listening to music streaming with a video attached to it.
- Have an optimum usage of the smartphone so that the durability of the smartphones increases.
- Try to download the videos and watch them offline instead of direct streaming as internet usage increases harmful emissions.
- Any federal incentive policy to render incentives for the smartphone developing companies that build a sustainable and more durable solution is a need.
Smartphones, due to their capability, have and will receive accolades. The discovery of smartphones has eased the life of humans. In today’s world, humanity is seeking sustainable solutions that can let the Earth improvise its health and serve the living creatures and humans for a more extended period. Any significant sustainable measure in smartphone production and its usage during a lifetime will be incredible and keep our ecosystem clean and greener. To protect our environment, smartphone developing organizations should devise a new strategy. If they continue to keep the same emissions rate, they will have to come forward with other carbon sequestration methods to compensate for such emissions.