Apple’s constant line of small improvements is driven by profit in an upgrade society. The old phone, computer or device etc. ends up as waste along with all the things that attach to it. Apple’s new iphone has attracted a lot of criticism about its lack of a headphone socket, but the issue is bigger than that.
It’s a shame that Apple hasn’t been brave enough to innovate in ethics and the environment with its phones and put them at the core of it’s thinking.
Some computers are so cheap and badly made that they become obsolete quite quickly. Our Macs have been reliable and are quite a few years old now but Apple doesn’t update their computers in the same way they upgrade their phones in a fanfare of publicity. They are built and designed to last. But with phones, because they are on contracts, often offered for free, with offers of upgrades every year or two, they tend to end up as waste. Apple (and other phone manufacturers) create a desire for the new with their phones, unlike any other item. Phones have become the tech version of fast fashion. Software that is not updated also renders many items obsolete (we gave away a scanner recently that would no longer work with our OS, but at least it went to a good home).
So what are the solutions? Do we need to make brands listen or should there be tougher regulations? Do we need to move from an owning economy to a using or sharing economy? What if we rented phones/computers and they became the property (and responsibility) of the seller/maker afterwards to recycle. What if every town centre had offices to rent with hot desking for businesses to operate locally, avoiding commutes and allowing flexible work practices. Do we need to treat e-waste in the same way we do to cigarettes, like an addition and ban advertising and marketing? Can we make not upgrading sexier than having the latest phone? Can we do the same for recycling?
We had a recycling centre for e-waste near us but it shut down due to variable prices for the materials it harvested and cost of extraction. The solution isn’t just recycling, it’s reducing the waste to start with.
Ultimately the brands have a part to play. It would be great if they were more transparent about their supply chain. It needs brands like Apple to lead and drive the conversation about sourcing and waste, but they need to believe in it to start with. With all its vast in-house reserves of cash, why can’t it take more of a command over its supply chain and make it an asset?
Perhaps we might all fall in love with Apple again.
How do you deal with your e-waste? Do you feel there is an ethical or sustainable choice when it comes to electronics and IT?