The Implications of Cellphone Manufacturing and Use on the Environment
The 21st century is often known for its place in history as a special era mainly characterized by numerous fast-paced developments that have paved the way for various groundbreaking technological innovations. One such development was the introduction of the cellphone as a novel innovation projected to break the glass ceiling of telecommunications while marking the start of an exciting period in the realm of technological advancement. The cellphone was welcomed by many impressed by a compact portable design that made it possible to communicate with others and relay text messages from any region globally (Norman, 2021). However, this excitement was short-lived. Activists, lobby groups, and respected pundits raised concern over the long-term implications of cellphone manufacturing and its impact on the environment and various categories of existing ecosystem. Today, these concerns are compounded by the fact that multinational companies now dominate the cellphone manufacturing industry and appear to be largely unconcerned with the potential implications of mass-producing cellphones for the global consumer market.
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This paper will, therefore, focus on providing a detailed evaluation of the harm caused by the large-scale production of cellphones globally and the most viable attempt to address this dilemma. It will also be crucial to conduct a review of the life cycle of a typical cellphone to better understand the path it takes from the industries and into the hands of individual consumers. This step-by-step process will put each of the paths taken into perspective to determine the direct effects of such actions on the environment and how it ultimately contributes to our carbon footprint. Moreover, this exercise is fundamental in determining the actual scope of the problem given that data on the actual magnitude of this problem remains disputed. Following a manufactured cellphone from the ordinary purchases made, to the packaging and transportation helps us to assess the various transportation mediums used and their direct impact on the environment. It will also be crucial to provide a broad evaluation focusing on both the immediate effects and long-term implications to better understand the breadth of this particular challenge.
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A major concern shared by detractors of cellphones in contemporary society is the presence of numerous components contained in the archetypal cellphone; all with the potential to do great harm to the environment. This is further exacerbated by the fact that each of the individual parts have unique effects on the environment, an assertion based on the numerous potentially harmful raw materials required to make the cellphone work. According to Demirbas et al. (2019),an ordinary functioning cellphone contains more than 60 elements ranging from polycarbonate thermoplastic polymers to radioactive components and rare earth minerals such as tantalum. Additionally, multinational companies such as Apple, Samsung, and Huawei remain uncooperative when required to provide an honest assessment of the potentially harmful effects of cellphone components on the environment (Jones, 2021). Whenever evidence-based journal articles are published highlighting the negative impact of cellphones on the environment, MNCs are often quick to offer a rebuttal based exclusively on the opinions of scientists working for this same companies. The idea is to trivialize the actual impact of cellphone manufacturing and use on the environment to avoid potential lawsuits by aggrieved parties or making losses based solely on opinions regarding their carbon footprint.
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The Influence of Individual Choices and its Effects on Environmental Sustainability
One of the most noteworthy aspects of today’s contemporary society is the fact that consumer behavior is largely down to individual choices. This means that consumers can choose specific consumer goods they are interested in and intend to own and can also decide to discard it for a newer and improved version. Yet, many actively fail to consider the numerous implications of individual choices on the environment and its role in diminishing. The cellphone industry is one of the fastest growing sectors due to the rapid rate of technological change taking place every day. Cellphone manufacturers normally rely on a versatile Research and Development Department (R&D) instituted with the specific aim of developing new advancements, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications, designed to ensure a company has a competitive advantage over some of their closest rivals (Langston, 2017). Although such teams are invaluable to innovation, they also pose a serious risk to the environment given that they have the potential to influence trends in individual choices. It is, therefore, no wonder that emerging cellphone trends are typically overtaken by newer developments in approximately 6 months due to the development of newer and more innovative technologies.
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An important observation that is often overlooked is the direct correlation between individual choices and diminishing environmental sustainability. In particular, most experts in technology and innovation continually fail to consider that the presence of new and improved features increase the probability that consumer may ditch their current device for a new one. Cellphone consumer behavior in developed countries is characterized by users discarding their new phones for new ones (Norman, 2021). Such individuals often expect that once discarded, their older phone will be recycled, and individual parts reused in other areas of technology. Nonetheless, this is not often the case. Out of the 60 odd components contained within a cellphone, recycling companies may only choose to extract individual parts with a lucrative market, such as microchips, polycarbonate thermoplastic polymers, and rubber. The remaining bits, mostly radioactive components, are duly discarded into unregulated landfills within major industrial hubs such as China, Bangladesh, and Oman.
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Individual choices and consumers’ ability to periodically obtain new cellphones based on solely on consumers’ sheer fascination with technological improvements also drives demand and creates a whole new chapter in environmental exploitation. The use of components such as iron, tin, copper, nickel, and rubber often mean that an increase in demand is accompanied by large-scale mining expeditions known for having a high destruction profile (Singh & Singh, 2021).Over the years, mining companies have done very little to mitigate the potentially harmful consequences of their commercial exploits. It is fairly common for major mining MNCs to only focus on profit while largely ignoring their role in diminishing environmental sustainability. An increase in demand for raw materials required in the manufacture of cellphones results in the signing of new mining concessions often due to depleted reserves. Large gaping pits eventually become a common feature in the landscape, as is common in Peru and Chile, which affects the landscape and the environment in question due to the large-scale removal of rocks.
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Recommendations on Mitigating the Negative Environmental Impact of Cellphones
Based on the empirical research evidence provided in this review, the negative environmental impact of cellphones is now quite apparent. However, it is also crucial to remember that both consumers and cellphone manufacturers can play an active role in averting the negative environmental impact of cellphones. Perhaps the most critical recommendation is raising public awareness on the consequences of individual choices and consumer behavior and its role in the diminishing of environmental impacts. Messages of this kind can be relayed through the traditional media and social media in the form of catchy commercials, documentaries, and bulletin programs.
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The idea is to reach a wider demographic with the main aim of discussing the dangers of impulsive consumer behavior in the cellphone market and the implications of such developments on environmental sustainability. Similarly, cellphone manufacturers should take responsibility for their business practices and the subsequent effects they eventually have on the environment. Major cellphone manufacturing MNCs can begin this process by limiting the unnecessary production of newer versions of their products in response to the dangers posed by unbridled individual consumer choices. Such actions are bound to reduce needless mining endeavors while also remembering to invest in a sustainable recycling process which also incorporates reusing and refurbishing older cellphone models.
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