Smartphones contribute to 12% of global e-waste, report says

India along with the US, the UK, China and Japan are the highest e-waste generating nations.

Updated - December 22, 2021 06:41 pm IST

Published - December 21, 2021 05:39 pm IST

E-waste management needs push from industry, consumer, government

E-waste management needs push from industry, consumer, government

Smartphones contribute to 12% of global e-waste, and it will continue to rise unless measures are taken to counter it, according to research report by Counterpoint.

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It estimated that smartphone production alone contributes 80-90% of carbon emissions by the device. A mobile phone has over 60 different metals, including rare earth metals that can contaminate soil and water if not disposed properly.

Demand for mobile phones increased mining activities for these metals, which adversely impact the environment at the extraction stage itself. High consumption has already led them to be listed as ‘endangered metals’, as they are available in limited quantities

"In the discarded e-waste, most of the devices containing lithium-ion batteries (mostly smartphones) pose a significant risk to the environment," research firm Counterpoint said.

The research firm estimated that about 6-7 kg of high-grade gold ore is mined to make a single mobile phone. However, all these are being conveniently ignored by most of the industry.

The research firm predicted that during the 2020-30 decade, 40% more electronic waste will be generated but the corresponding global e-waste recycling rate will be only 20%.

Role of consumers, manufacturers and governments

India along with the US, the UK, China and Japan are the highest e-waste generating nations. The report has also pointed out how some countries and companies have started to work towards reducing e-waste.

Also Read | HP makes first ever PCs with plastic waste in ocean

France’s 2019 ‘anti-waste Bill’ has pushed up the ‘repairability index’ that mandates a clear display of information on the repairability of electronic devices like smartphones, laptops, TVs, washing machines.

Japan initiated a first-of-its-kind nationwide effort to recycle e-waste from 2020 Tokyo Olympics medals production.

The UK has cleared the ‘Right to Repair’ law that gives consumers the right to repair their own electronic devices and requires the manufacturers to supply the necessary spare parts. The EU and US are expected to follow soon.

Also Read | Fall in e-waste generation in poor countries shows growing digital divide, report says

Starting early next year, Apple plans to make parts and tools available to those in the US who are comfortable with undertaking their own repairs starting with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 and later extending to Mac computers with M1 chips. The facility will be expanded to other countries later in 2022.

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