Research from McMaster University in Canada shows that buying a new smartphone requires approximately the same amount of energy as using your old one for a decade. The research, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, indicated a drastic increase in the carbon footprint of the Information and Communication (ICT) industry over the last decade, citing an increase from 1% of global carbon footprint in 2007 to roughly 3% in 2018, with projections of 14% by 2040. The researchers also noted that smartphones are particularly environmentally damaging owing to their short life-cycles coupled with over 85% their carbon footprint resulting from producing the device (i.e. mining, refinement and manufacturing).
The environmental impact of our smart devices is increasing and their numbers proliferating (think IoT), but research suggests that consumers are replacing them less often. Phones are getting bigger and more powerful, but more of each phone is being recycled and each generation is more energy-efficient. Can increasing efficiency and recycling programs like Apple’s instilling circular economics into the ICT industry eventually make smart devices less environmentally damaging than they are in 2019? Can we eventually reach full resource circularity for smart devices or are there practical limits to ICT product consumption loops? What ways can we as consumers encourage and demand the hastening of sustainable, circular economic ICT business?
Read more about mining and smartphones here.