Individuals and companies are used to upgrading their mobile phones on a regular basis as newer, supposedly better, models come to the market with worrying regularity. It seems that no sooner have you bought a new phone than a newer model becomes available. This situation is encouraged by mobile phone manufacturers and the providers who often offer a free upgrade after a year or two Being cynical one could suggest that this avoids having to repair smartphones as they become older and avoids the consumer realising just how non-durable these expensive products are.
What this means in practise is that many of us throw away mobile phones (or leave them unused in the bottom of a drawer) when actually they are still in working condition. So let’s have a look in a bit more detail about what it means to the environment when you throw away an old smartphone and replace it with that shiny new model.
There are two main areas that you need to know about when throwing away an old mobile phone.
The first thing you need to consider is the environment. Throwing away smartphones and other waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is contributing to the growing mountain of e-waste across the globe. Whilst in Europe we have strict rules about such disposal in the form of the EU’s WEEE Regulations many companies are just shipping e-waste off to countries like China which do not have the same level of WEEE recycling regulations and where they still allow massive quantities of electronic waste to be dumped in landfills every year. This e-waste causes both environmental problems in the surrounding areas but also health problems in the workers at the landfill sites because electronic gadgets contain hazardous substances that are release when they a broken open.
The second issue is that of the personal data held on our phones. You need to be extremely careful to ensure that your personal data is completely wiped from the device to protect yourself from possible identity fraud, which is a growing crime exacerbated by our tendency to keep personal data where it can be accessed by criminals.
So your first option should always be to consider recycling your mobile phone if that is possible. Even if it is not in working order there are enthusiasts who will buy it for its components so before dumping it try to sell it on eBay or similar and make some money for yourself rather than harming the environment. If you cannot be bothered with eBay then why not donate your smartphone to a charitable organisation who can make good use of it.
Of course the issue of personal data is a major one whether you dump it, sell it or donate it so make sure your confidential information is completely wiped. There are professional companies that will wipe your data and this is the safest route but if you decide to do it yourself just remember it is more complicated than simply deleting the files and reverting the mobile phone to its factory settings. You have been warned!