Do you really need a new smartphone every 2 years? How to get more out of your devices

(CNN) — If you’re thinking about replacing or upgrading your smartphone next year, take some time to think about it. Do you really need a new phone or are you just itching to get your hands on the shiny new technology? In addition to the affordability of the new device, one must consider other issues.

Specifically, our desire to always have the latest smartphone has a high environmental cost.

The life of a smartphone begins in mines around the world, where essential minerals. These materials are transported to factories, where they are refined, often at high temperatures and high power, into components such as batteries, cables, logic boards, and motors. The components are then transported in fossil fuel-powered vehicles to other factories to be assembled into complete devices, before being shipped to consumers around the world.

This manufacturing process, so damaging to the climate and the environment, is compounded by the frequency with which consumers replace their phones. And when thrown away, electronic devices do toxic damage to the environment.

“Smartphones seem so small and inconsequential that unless you’ve studied supply chains and realized all that goes into making them, you have no idea how devastating they are to the environment,” he told CNN Cole Stratton, an associate professor at Indiana University Bloomington who has studied technology supply chains.

The right to repair your things

Unfortunately, the manufacturers they have hindered historically the repair of appliances, to the point that replacing them often seems like an easier solution than fixing them, further contributing to the already severe climate crisis.

According to Swappie, which refurbishes and resells iPhones, the 1.4 billion new smartphones expected to be sold this year will generate 146 million tons of planet-warming emissions, 83% of which come from manufacturing, shipping and use during the first year.

“Many people are unaware of the real impact that buying a new smartphone has on the environment,” Emma Lehikoinen, Swappie’s COO, told CNN. “Now when we look at refurbished devices, it’s a much different story.”

That’s where the growing movement for right to reparation.

Right-to-repair advocates have called for laws requiring device manufacturers to provide the necessary tools, parts, and repair manuals so consumers can repair their products at independent shops or do it themselves.

If consumers could more easily repair their devices, they would not have to replace them as often, reducing reliance on a resource-intensive, greenhouse gas-emitting production process and ultimately reducing e-waste.

The climate footprint of an average Swappie refurbished phone in 2021 was a 78% lower than that of an average new phone, the company said.

“If we can’t repair our stuff, the consequence is that we throw away a lot more,” Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of the Repair Association, a coalition that fights for the right to repair, previously told CNN. “We can no longer cope with the volume… We are swimming in products that we can no longer recycle.”

What can be done

(Credit: boonchai wedmakawand/Moment RF/Getty Images)

Resist the temptation to renew. If your phone still works, get as much use out of it as you can. “The greenest smartphone is the one you already have,” says Stratton.

Fix it up. If your mobile phone breaks, take it directly to the manufacturer -such as Samsung or Apple- or to a store such as Micro Center, Best Buy or another local workshop authorized to repair phones of your brand. Often a broken or malfunctioning phone can be fixed with simple repairs that may cost less than replacing it. Apple opened its store this year self-service repairswhich offers manuals and parts to consumers who want to fix their iPhones themselves.

Mrs. There are many good causes that accept phone donations to refurbish or sell for money, such as the Salvation Army and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Sell ​​it instead of throwing it away. You can sell your used smartphone to specialized refurbishing companies like Swappie to give it (or its parts) a second life. “What many people don’t realize is that even broken phones can still be valuable,” Lehikoinen explains. “This is due to the materials used to make them, but also the parts that go into them.”

Recycle it properly. If your phone is completely broken and cannot be sold or donated, you can still properly recycle it. You just have to do a little research on how and where to recycle it correctly. For example, at Swappie’s pop-up store in Milan, they are asking the local community to help them collect 50 kilos of broken phones for recycling.

CNN’s Clare Duffy contributed to this report.

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Do you really need a new smartphone every 2 years? How to get more out of your devices

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