How much do you know about how the things you buy are made? In this guest post, Friends of the Earth’s Andy Atkins explains why smartphone manufacturers need to start making their products better.
It doesn’t say on the label that it takes 3,900 litres of water to produce a single t-shirt. And did you know that producing the estimated 454m smartphones sold worldwide each year uses an area of land twice the size of New York?
It’s important that we all think about our own impact on the world, but an overwhelming amount of product information probably isn’t the best way to help with this. As shoppers, most of us just want to trust that manufacturers protect people and the planet in the process of creating the products we buy.
The tin solder in every mobile
Of course, everything we buy and use has an impact. Sometimes a shocking one, as our smartphone investigation at Friends of the Earth reveals. We looked at the origins of the 2g of tin-rich solder in every mobile, and found that tin mining on the Indonesian island of Bangka is destroying tropical forests, choking coral reefs and devastating communities. Our video about tin-mining in Bangka reveals more:
Although the companies may not have known the source of their tin or about the devastating effect of mining on the island, our research shows that tin mined in Bangka almost certainly ends up in smartphones and other products from some of the largest technology brands.
So what’s the solution?
At Friends of the Earth, we’re asking the leading smartphone makers to reveal their supply chains and work with industry and communities to resolve the situation in Bangka.
And to help prevent production problems happening elsewhere in the world, our new Make It Better campaign is calling for new rules to make all companies come clean about the human and environmental cost of their whole supply chains. At the moment, manufacturers don’t have to say where the raw materials used to make their products are from or report any pollution incidents or accidents.
Companies could do a lot more to use our world’s limited natural resources more efficiently through innovative product design.Takes phones as an example – super-fast charging batteries or handsets designed to be easily refurbished could make a big difference. Also, more re-use of parts would create less demand for things like tin, which would take the pressure off places like Bangka.
Millions of us love our smartphones and other gadgets – it’s about time we were able to love the way they’re made too.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director. All opinions expressed here are Andy’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.
Who should be responsible for making sure products don’t damage the environment?
The manufacturers (57%, 200 Votes)
The government (27%, 93 Votes)
You and me, the shoppers (16%, 57 Votes)
Total Voters: 255