Sustainable Business Development
Improved technology heralded the invention of the cell phone, which has revolutionized how humans communicate. More than 60% of people in the world’s population own at least one cell phone. This represents around 4.1 billion mobile users in the world. The environmental impact that mobile phones have on the environment becomes clear when one considers the fact that an average user keeps the phone for approximately one year before getting rid of it for another one (EPA 2004, p1).
Impacts of the Cellphone on the Environment
At the production level, the mobile phones require mineral metals, some of which are rare and have to be extracted from the earth. These include cadmium, lead, gold, and silver. The extraction of these minerals has resulted in the destruction of forests in Indonesia and Philippines (Weissbrod and Taplin 2010, par 3). The factories that manufacture these phones also utilize huge amounts of energy, most of which is produced by fossil fuels (EPA 2004, p 1). This results in carbon emission contributing to global warming (Corrocher and Zirulia 2010).
A single cellphone does not seem to use much energy, but when all the cellphones in use globally are considered, they siphon a lot of energy from the electric grids (Røpke 2003, pp. 171-188). The towers used to transmit the telecommunication networks have been blamed for the dwindling population of honeybees, as their frequencies harm these insects. There are radiations that are emitted by phones, and people have expressed fears that they might cause illnesses, such as cancer. Many cases of accidents have been reported where the driver or the pedestrian involved had been distracted by the cellphone.
130 million cellphones are disposed every year. When these gadgets are thrown into the landfills, the toxic components in them, such as lead and cadmium are leached into the earth (Mahmud et al. 2014, pp. 140-144). They then pollute the underground water. Other toxins are also released into the air affecting the ecosystem (Frey, Harrison and Billett 2006, pp. 199-216). When humans breathe this air or consume contaminated water and food, medical complications and growth disorders manifest. It contributes to lowered IQ and learning deficits in small children.
Some of the adverse effects of cellphones on the environment include the destruction of the environment when the component metals are extracted; high-energy consumption leading to high levels of carbon emissions; harming of honeybees by their frequencies; endangering the lives of motorists and pedestrians; and leaching of toxic components into the earth. Several measures can be taken to manage the negative effects brought about by cellphones on the environment. These include encouraging people to use their cellphones for a longer period of time (UNEP 2011, par 1; WRAP 2011, p. 2). Instead of tossing functional phones into the trash, they can donate them to charities that will deliver the devices to people in the less developed countries. The cellphone manufacturing companies should come up with ways of recycling the materials used in making these devices. The phones could also be made more efficient in their energy consumption in addition to coming up with means of charging them using renewable sources of energy.
EPA., 2004. The Life Cycle of a Cell Phone. 1st ed. Environmental Protection Agency: Solid Waste and Emergency Response.
Frey, S., Harrison, D. and Billett, E., 2006. “Ecological Footprint Analysis Applied to Mobile Phones.” Journal of Industrial Ecology, 10(1-2), pp.199-216.
Mahmud, N., Holeman, I., Puk, K., Lam, R. & Lee, D., 2014. “The Cell Phone Problem/Solution”, Journal of environmental health, vol. 76, no. 6, pp. 140-4.
Røpke, I., 2003. “Consumption dynamics and technological change—exemplified by the mobile phone and related technologies.” Ecological Economics, 45(2), pp.171-188.
UNEP., 2011. Press Releases November 2011 – Get Gold from your Phone with the Green Up! Campaign – United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). [online] Unep.org. Available at: http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?DocumentID=2659&ArticleID=8962&l=en [Accessed 12 Feb. 2015].
Weissbrod, I. and Taplin, J. 2010. O2 Eco Rating: assessing the sustainability of mobile phones | Forum for the Future. [online] Forumforthefuture.org. Available at: http://www.forumforthefuture.org/project/o2-eco-rating-assessing-sustainability-mobile-phones/overview [Accessed 12 Feb. 2015].
WRAP. 2011. Lifetime Optimization Tool Example report for a Mobile Phone. 1st ed. [ebook] wrap. Available at: http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/LOT_Example_report.pdf [Accessed 12 Feb. 2015].
Corrocher, N. and Zirulia, L. 2010. Demand and innovation in services: The case of mobile communications. Research Policy, 39(7), pp.945-955.
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