Five Billion Phones Will Be Thrown Away in 2022. Here’s What Happens to Them
Multiple models of new phones are coming out every year. A new batch of iPhones every September, new Android phones from Google in October, and new flagship devices from other manufacturers throughout the rest of the year.
If that sounds like a lot of phones, that’s because it is. We currently throw away over five billion smartphones every year according to the waste electrical and electronic equipment forum (WEEE). Within five years, the total volume of discarded e-waste will exceed 10 billion units.
It’s important to dispose of these properly in order to prevent further damage to our environment and potential threats to human health from hazardous materials.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do as an individual or as part of an organization to reduce the negative impact of e-waste on our world.
Why Are So Many Phones Being Thrown Away?
Phones these days aren’t built to last forever. They’re designed to be replaced after a certain period of time.
Plus, a growing number of people are buying smartphones. According to the Consumer Technology Association, over one billion smartphones were sold in 2018 alone.
And a significant number of smartphones are being discarded prematurely. Many people replace their smartphones before they really need to.
That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with changing to a newer model. It’s all part of the process.
But there are many ways to make sure your old device is disposed of responsibly that most people simply don’t bother with.
The Rising Amount of E-waste and the Environment
Consumers and businesses often don’t know how to properly dispose of their old devices. Many people simply toss their broken or unwanted devices in the trash without considering the potential environmental effects and consequent health risks involved.
Health Risks Posed by Electronic Waste
Electronic waste is an environmental and health hazard due to toxic chemicals and heavy metals contained in discarded items.
Namely, many electronics contain mercury, cadmium, and lead, which are all toxic to humans and animals.
Wildlife and marine life are at high risk from discarded electronic devices. Discarded computers, smartphones, televisions, and other devices that are tossed into the trash can end up in the oceans, where fish and other sea life can be harmed when they mistake the devices for food.
Electronic devices that end up in landfills can remain there for decades before they are broken down and disposed of in an environmentally responsible way. Properly disposing of electronics allows their materials to be recycled, that way they don’t just continue to pile up—or worse, end up polluting the wild.
You might have seen electronic disposal bins at supermarkets or shopping centers. Most phone stores also accept old devices for disposal, so when buying a new one, bring your old one with you to throw away if you aren’t going sell it.
Ways You Can Reduce Electronic Waste From Discarded Phones
Here are a few things you can do to minimize the environmental and health risks of discarded phones.
- Buy and use devices that have less hazardous components and materials
- Choose to repair rather than replace your devices when possible
- Make sure old devices are disposed of responsibly
- Spread the word about how to manage the end-of-life for their devices
Ways Businesses Can Help Avoid Electronic Waste
Here are a few suggestions for how businesses can help.
- When purchasing devices and equipment, choose models that have a longer lifespan
- Help employees to extend the lifespan of their devices as much as possible (using cases, getting repairs, conserving battery, etc)
- Choose manufacturers and suppliers that take environmentally responsible practices seriously
- Talk to colleagues about how to manage the end-of-life for their devices