/looks over the top of her second hand iPhone SE

/looks over the top of her second hand iPhone SE

I wonder how much of a recycle program there is in place at the moment. Probably jack shit.

In any case, keeping a smartphone for even three years instead of two can make a considerable impact to your own carbon footprint, simply because no one has to mine the rare materials for a phone you already own. It’s a humbling environmental takeaway, especially if you own Samsung or Apple stock. Much like buying a used gasoline-fueled car is actually better for the environment than purchasing a new Prius or Tesla, keeping your old phone is greener than upgrading to any new one.

Data centers and servers (think Google and Facebook) and cryptocurrency mining also get dunked.

Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected

Before you upgrade your next iPhone, you may want to consider a $29 battery instead. Not only will the choice save you money, it could help save the planet. A new study from researchers at McMaster University published in the Journal of Cleaner Production analyzed the carbon impact of the whole Information and Communication Industry (ICT) from around 2010-2020, including PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones, and servers.

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26 Responses to /looks over the top of her second hand iPhone SE

  1. Jodi Kaplan says:

    Until recently, I was still using my iPhone 4. The 6 I have now was used. And I don’t own any sort of car.

  2. Cindy Brown says:

    Of course as is usual it’s the actions en masse that are important. I drive the cars I have had for more than 10 years which is also helpful. Although this is the first time I’ve wondered if any ubiquity in self driving would cut that short.

  3. Jodi Kaplan says:

    Yeah, I have no car, but someone in my neighborhood keeps buying Humvees.

  4. Andrew Fisk says:

    Cindy Brown would you consider a retro fit for your current car? Most of the self driving cars I see are production cars with bolt on self driving equipment.

    And yes, if you can convince the world that the free phone they get isn’t free I would guess the life span of cell phones would increase dramatically. My rule of thumb is it’s not dead till I’m picking bits of brohen glass out of my face. Although I did discover that getting cement dust in the microphone opening was a killer of an otherwise usable phone.

  5. Alan Peery says:

    One of the primary drivers for upgrades is poor battery life as the batteries wear out. Getting a regulation requiring easily replaced batteries would be a big win.

  6. Jodi Kaplan says:

    My old phone worked (and held a charge) just fine. The only problem was that some of the apps were no longer supported and I couldn’t update the software.

  7. ..the dratted batteries are the reason I switched out phones recently….

  8. I’m still using an iPhone 5S and it’s a race to see if a dead battery or an inability to upgrade it kills it first. I still have my original ipad and it works just fine – but very very few apps still run on the last OS version it can support. Short life spans are baked in.

  9. Jodi Kaplan says:

    I still have my original ipad too. And it has the same issue. It works just fine, it’s just too old and slow.

  10. Ray Bernache says:

    Galaxy s6 active going on ?? Years ?
    And seeing as it’s one of the last androids with physical buttons, I’m going to run this sucker into the ground

  11. I upgraded my iPhone 5 to an iPhone SE last year. I usually keep my phones for 5 years before upgrading, and have never really had a battery die. Reduced life was usually because I accumulate apps that want to run in the background for push notifications. Before I upgrade, I turn off all those notifications and usually get another 25% run time on the same battery.

    As for recycling, Apple does a good job. In fact, they will still give me $25 for that old iPhone 5! Time to wipe it and send it in.apple.com – Trade in with Apple GiveBack

  12. I buy them pretty frequently, but I still have most of mine to use as test devices. The ones I don’t have anymore are sold. Anything else goes to the local recycling depot.

  13. Shaun Orwell says:

    I’m amazed there haven’t been significant punishments for planned obsolescence yet. My 2013 note 3 stopped getting critical updates on stock years ago, but on Lineage now I can still play any non-root android game I’ve encountered so performance is not the issue (and my replacement battery lasts 3 days)

  14. Sarah Lester says:

    I kept my first iPhone, a 3s for about 3 years before it became unusable. It was passed on to someone else. The I had an S4, but it crapped out after a year and half and I ended up with a really terrible “replacement phone” until my contract expired with Sprint. I got a MotoX (second gen) in hopes of having something that would become immediately obsolete and then Google sold Mototrola to Lenovo and they obsoleted the phone, no more update and the battery was failing. It’s frustrating as hell because I would LOVE to just buy a phone and use it for multiple years, but at least the Android’s I’ve had seem to have a built in expiration.

    I have an HTC U11 now, I’m hoping it will hang on for a couple more years. I still have the S4 and the MotoX, not quite sure what to do with them.

  15. The comment about new versus used cars is a little bit disingenuous. What matters is that the fleet of vehicles on the road becomes more efficient over time, and that non gas guzzlers are driven for as long as possible. My Jazz (aka the Honda Fit in the USA and other regions) is six years old; when I replace it with a Model 3, it’ll be seven years old. It won’t be scrapped; it’ll go to somebody who wants a cheap-ish, reliable and fuel efficient runaround.

    I hear their point; it’s simply that it only goes part of the way, and glosses over several details. (In fairness, if it weren’t for the Model 3, I’d probably keep the Jazz for another ten or more years.)

  16. Lisa Chabot says:

    Santa Clara has cheaper electricity than neighboring cities, due to the city running its own power (actually, things are contracted with PGE&LSFTTF (Pacific Gas Explosions And Let’s Set Fire To The Forest), but as a large bloc they can negotiate, where you and I can’t). As a consequence, near where I used to work they are leveling local office parks and replacing them with server farm 3- & 4- story cubes. (You mostly don’t see them from the freeway, especially not since they build the new weird mixed office/apartment/retail/hardlyanyparking complex right next to the freeway (if it’s suppose to be the new, compact, urban planning then why isn’t it on lightrail (a mile walk away on an unlit creek trail) and why are the only bus lines very low frequency (4 times a day)).

  17. Alan Peery says:

    Lisa Chabot The sensible thing would be to use waste heat from those DCs to heat local homes in winter, but I’ve not seen that planned into any data centres yet…

    Exept Stockholm, I think.

  18. Lisa Chabot says:

    Alan Peery It borders on (and replaces some of) a light manufacturing area, so except for those apartments in the weird new flashy complex, housing is at least a mile away…still, seat warmers for Levi Stadium? the pool for the city’s sychronized swimming team (only 1/4 mile away)?

  19. Andrew Fisk says:

    Stuart Lamble why not keep the car another 10 years, I can’t imagine that anything, other than maybe a car that is 100% solar powered would have a lower net impact on the environment. Add to that the morrally questionable act of driving on roads funded by a tax on gasoline and you are actually damaging society with your car purchase!
    Someone buying a cheapish run around is either replacing the last cheapish runaround they just blew the motor on, or is a new driver, niether of which will do much to increase the efficiency of the “fleet”.

  20. Andrew Fisk, as it happens, I’m currently getting quotes for solar panels for exactly that reason (amongst others), and intend to make a move to have them installed by early next year.

    The point I’m making is that used cars come from somewhere. That “somewhere” is people who buy (or lease) new cars. Those new cars trickle through the various phases of lifespan, becoming new-ish cars for those who like to buy cars after the worst of the depreciation has gone but before they are “old”, mid-life cars, and older cars. Sooner or later, cars reach the end of their useful lives and are scrapped. Unless your goal is to end private car ownership and use, that pool of used cars has to come from people who buy new cars. (And the process of scrapping does recover a fair amount of the embodied energy that is used to manufacture the car in the first place.)

    Which is not to say that ending private car ownership and use is a bad idea. Only that it’s not likely to happen in the world we live in at the moment. Pushing for more efficient cars at the starting point means that, over time, the fleet does, inevitably, improve.

    You might argue that we purchase too many new cars, as a society. That’s a reasonable point to make, and I’d be inclined to agree. For example Australia had 786,294 new car sales in the year to end of August, for example; with a population of 24.6 million (2017 figures), that works out to maybe a complete turnover of the fleet every 14 years or so (based upon the population over 25 years of age of around 16 million). But the general point remains: the only way you’re going to see the general efficiency of the fleet dropping is if the people buying new decide to buy efficient cars.

  21. Cindy Brown says:

    Hm, the overall point here is that efficiency in terms of high MPG cars or whatever is NOT the only impact on the environment that cars (or phones) have. The point is that phones and cars are made with MATERIALS that also have an effect on the environment (rare metals, plastics etc). The question is whether it’s better to slow down the materials being dug out (in which case you def want to decrease total new cars purchased per year in favor of holding on to them much longer than average) or if it’s better that the total number of cars (or phones) on the “road” are as new as possible so as to use less energy/have less emissions/whatever.

    One area that does look like it could totally stand improving is the recycling of phones. Seems that’s pretty rare for all that Apple has a recycling program. Is it rare because people throw them away instead or because people turn around and resell them? I don’t know what the numbers are.

  22. Cindy Brown One analysis of carbon released from car manufacturer puts it at 6-35,000 kg CO2e. theguardian.com – Manufacturing a car creates as much carbon as driving it | Environment | The Guardian

    A gallon of gasoline releases about 8.5kg CO2e (not including the C released from the drilling and refining process). https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=307&t=11
    So, let’s round that up to 10kg. It’s probably a bit more (https://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/lcfs_meetings/12132016wang.pdf).

    So, choosing a midpoint of 20,000kg for a new car, as long as you can burn 2,000 gallons (sorry for mixing measurement systems) fewer of gas, its a net benefit. So, for example, switching from my 12mpg 2003 pickup truck to a 35mpg hybrid SUV increased my fuel efficiency from 8.3gallons/100miles to 2.9gallons/100miles, so saving 5.4gallons/100miles. So, I’ll break even for carbon emissions at around 37,000 miles. That’s about 2-3 years of driving.

    If I replace my 40mpg Honda Fit with a compact all-electric SUV powered from solar (and assuming a lower end of C for the manufacture of 10,000kg), I’ll break even in carbon emissions after about 40,000 miles, again just 2-3 years of driving.

  23. Cindy Brown says:

    And, again, emissions isn’t the sole determinant of environment wrecking.

  24. Cindy Brown Agreed on plastics. My old cars have no rare metals in them, though hybrid and EV batteries will need significant recycling effort (edmunds.com – Edmunds). Note, my son’s 2005 Prius is still going strong at over 200,000 miles and the battery is doing fine after 13 years.

  25. Cindy Brown says:

    It occurs to me that one of the best approaches wrt to cars would be to retrofit older cars with electric engines…

    This would also make me happy to get away from the &%$^&*&^& computerization (which probably also goes tearing thru the rare earth/metals/etc as with the phones)…

  26. Ray Bernache says:

    Brian Holt Hawthorne what’s interesting about that article you linked to is the fact that they seem unaware of the thriving automotive recycling/re-manufacturing industry!
    Not only components, but lead-acid batteries have been recycled/reused for decades, so much so, that you have to pay an up-charge if you don’t have your old one to turn in.
    15% of the US cobalt usage already comes from recycling, and with the push to reduce our dependence on exploitative supply chains, coupled with growing interest in lithium recycling methods, battery recycling is only going to rise.