by Paola Scharberg
It’s 2020 and technology is everywhere. The proliferation of technology in the last couple of decades has been fascinating to witness; from smaller and more powerful computers to smart phones that have replaced a plethora of other electronic devices. Unfortunately, this doesn’t come without a cost, an environmental cost that is often overlooked for our personal convenience. There might also be a social cost, although perhaps it’s too soon to measure this.
Smartphones are very convenient and it’s needless to say that a better battery life is priceless, that new portrait mode is too hard to pass on. However, having the newest smart phone model implies getting rid of the “old” one, which often times is still in good condition. According to Pew Research, 81 percent of American adults have smart phones and in 2016 Americans had the same phone for an average of 22.7 months. There are over 250 million adults living in the United States. This means that every two years, over two million people swap their phones for a newer model.
Unfortunately it’s not only smartphones that have a short lifespan; televisions, tablets, and computers are all being replaced while still perfectly functional. So, what happens to all the “old” electronics once we don’t want them anymore? Considering that 70% of waste in landfills are electronics, it is safe to say that more than half of our oldies get tossed to the regular trash dumpster along with eggs shells and other food scraps. The problems with tossing electronic waste (e-waste) are the many hazardous materials that our electronics contain. These are an environmental threat if they reach groundwater.
Another issue is the culture of wastefulness this is creating. Companies do a great job of generating a perception of need in us. They also do a great job of providing a certain status once that deceitful need is fulfilled, although this status is short lived. Something else companies do a great job of is building these gadgets with a very short lifespan, this is called planned obsolescence, and it’s not only phones, it happens with washing machines, printers, and many other electronics.
When goods are created to fail, there is an inherent problem in our society. This is aggravated when companies are not being held responsible for the proper disposing of the polluting goods they produce. The inability to repair these goods only benefit these corporations, since it is cheaper and more convenient to simply toss these items. Something else that is becoming obsolete is the word repair. Electronics are not the only things being affected by this wasteful culture, sewing a button on a piece of clothing may sound archaic to many.
As people and consumers we have the power to decide what we need and don’t need; corporations also have this power, but it is important for us to know that we it as well. In addition, we have the responsibility to properly dispose of the items we no longer want. Fortunately, there are organizations that focus on recycling to make our lives easier. For information about e-waste recycling events in 2020 in Missouri, click on the link.