The success story is: over 90% of the German population aged between 18 and 35 owns a smartphone. During the year when the IPhone 2007 was introduced, approximately 120 million devices were sold worldwide. In 2016, the number of devices sold increased to almost 1.5 billion units annually.

A device is often used for a period of only two years. In this short period of time, some manufacturers are launching three new generations of the model. Under the slogan “shop yourself happy” the industry is concealing what rubbish we leave behind with our shopping behaviour regarding smartphones, monitors and other electronic devices. As a result, 50 million tonnes of electronic waste are generated worldwide every year, of which only 20 percent is recycled. By 2050, the mountain of e-waste could increase to 120 million tonnes per year.

A considerable portion of the scrap ends up illegally in countries such as Nigeria or Ghana. According to a report issued by the Basel Action Network (BAN), the illegal export of e-waste from EU countries amounts to approximately 350,000 tonnes annually, which is the equivalent of 17,500 40ft. containers.

Numerous documentaries such as “Welcome to Sodom” show the life of the people amidst toxic smoke and garbage at Agbogbloshie, the largest electronic waste disposal site.

To produce a smartphone, 70kg of natural resources are required. Environmentally harmful chemicals are used in the mining of the required metals such as rare earths metals. It is not unusual to make use of child labour to do the work. Earth Overshoot Day is a symbolic reminder that we are consuming more biological resources than what the Earth can reproduce. We live on the credit of future generations. While the 1979 Earth Overshoot Day fell on 29 October, the day fell on 29 July in 2019. As such, we already need 1.75 planets Earth today to fulfil our resource needs. We would require 3 planets Earth by 2050. At that time the UNO expects 9.7 billion people on this planet.

What footprint are we leaving behind?

To ensure sustainability, we should use the equipment for as long as possible and then reprocess/recycle the resources it contains. In the case of a smartphone, you can reduce your ecological footprint as follows:

1. Protect the display and casing of your smartphone with foil and cover
Many people find it too expensive to repair the display when the smartphone is dropped and damaged, and buy a new another one. A well-maintained device increases the chance that it can be used elsewhere at a later stage.

2. Increase the service life of the lithium-ion battery
The charge level of the battery should be kept between 30% and 70%, i.e. not completely discharged or charged. The device should also not be unnecessarily left be connected to the charger. Protect the battery from direct sunlight and charge at room temperature. The optimum operating temperature is between 10 and 35 degrees Celcius.

3. Update software to a current version
When the support period expires, a so-called custom ROM can be installed on many Android devices. This provides for a more current version of the operating system and security updates. Custom ROMs are offered by, inter alia, Lineage. In the case of Lineage detailed installation instructions can be found under the device info. The German c’t magazine reported in issue 4/17 under the heading “Android without Google” in detail about the installation of a custom ROM.

Attention: With the installation of a custom ROM you lose the right to the manufacturer’s warranty/guarantee. In addition, there is a small risk that the device will no longer be functional. We do not accept any liability and only point out possible risks.

4. Repair
Repair services are available in many cities and online. For technically experienced people there are instructions on the Internet on how to do repairs yourself.

5. Sales and recycling
In Germany, 124 million unused mobile phones lie in drawers. The potential recycling value thereof equals 2.9 tonnes of gold, 30 tonnes of silver and 1100 tonnes of copper. Well-maintained devices without display damage, scratches or broken edges can easily be sold and reused depending on their age. In addition to markets, the devices can also be sold via providers such as Telekom or Vodafone, who would check the device for reuse and resell or recycle it after data deletion.

Under no circumstances should the old appliance be disposed of in the household waste!

Our commitment

We provide educational work in schools and launch collection campaigns for the recycling of old mobile phones. 4dignity operates a mobile phone collection box. The proceeds will go to environmental projects.