There’s a discussion I was clued into recently, taking place over at a spiked, a reporting website, which describes it self thusly:
spiked is an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms. spiked is endorsed by free-thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, and hated by the narrow-minded such as Torquemada and Stalin. Or it would be, if they were lucky enough to be around to read it.
I’m not quite sure what the “ethos” or “raison d’etre” of spiked is, but many of the articles explore interesting perspectives. One of these is “The Mobile Footprint and Consumer Expectations” which debates the “impact of mobile communications on the environment.” The subject itself took me a bit aback, as I for one didn’t expect our of love of cell phones to impact the environment in a negative way. But in fact, respect for the environment is the top issue that consumers report they’d like to see mobile companies contribute to–ranked higher than crime prevention, health, or education.
This makes sense when you think of the disposable nature of cell phones and all their accouterments (chargers, batteries, etc), some of which are toxic and certainly not easily biodegradable. Cell phones has become a fashion accessory to be customized, and thrown away at a whim. Such sentiments were not present with regular ‘home phones’ since, well, nobody really saw your home phone. If there’s one thing that cell phone companies have succeeded in, its making the choice of cell phone a major, and identity-reflecting decision akin to the clothes you wear or the music you listen to. However, while people generally *want* to contribute to the health of the environment, many times it is the case that they don’t want to pay more for the privilege of doing so.
This is of special concern to me today, as its the first official day I’m using my new iPhone (I lurve it!). However, when I bought my new phone yesterday, it was the first time I had in 4 years. My old phone, a Nokia 6600, had the impertinence not to die, but more importantly I didn’t find a phone I liked better until the (newly price reduced) iPhone. But I imagine that the turnover rate for cell phones is much faster, especially given the cheap incentives and bonuses offered to new and returning customers.
Why hasn’t any company come up with a biodegradable phone? Or environmentally-safe batteries?
In 2005, some researchers announced that they had found a way to make cell phone cases biodegradable, and under some conditions, they would break down and produce a flower! Personally, I think a tree would be more lasting and positive, but the idea is on-target. Three years later, I have yet to see this technology put into place, or even mentioned again past the few old press releases. Beyond the actual phone itself, it anyone paying attention to how cell phones are made? As one of the most common consumer electronics, even small inroads into making the production more eco-friendly would have an impact over the longer term.